February has always been my favorite month. While the weather is not nearly aMAYzing as May (unless you live in the southern hemisphere). February has a not-so secret superpower that makes it the best month ever to start new habits. (Drumroll) It’s short.
I like to call February the small month, but the length of it isn’t its only power. February is awesome because it is no longer the new year; therefore, the pressure of not messing up your fancy resolutions is off. Plus, the days are getting longer, which is a sure sign to your soul that you WILL survive winter.
We’ve all heard that it takes “21 days” to make a new habit stick (or to kick a bad one). While it turns out that this magic number is actually more of a motivational marketing tool than real science, its foundation is factual: To form new habits we need to conduct repeated action consistently over time. It may take you 21 days, it may take you 200 days. For me, I like to believe the magic number is 28, and this is why February is the best habit making month around. Oh, and this year the universe has given us a bonus day just to make sure whatever we’re trying to achieve sticks.
If you want to join me for a habit forming February, the formula is pretty simple. First, you’ve got to pick the thing you’re going to work on, then you do it today, and repeat it tomorrow (or according to whatever schedule you choose). It isn’t magic, but you can build habits that stick.
Here’s 4 habit building tips I’m putting into practice this month:
1. Be Specific and Actionable
Start with something very easy and exact to measure. Less of get in better shape, and more of complete one month of the 100 pushup challenge. Less quit eating junk food and more of eat something green at every meal.
I’ll personally be working on writing this month. It’s my favorite February challenge because I can do it in the morning in my warm bed when it’s cold. More specifically the habit I’m working on is to commit my time in the early morning to get my most important work done. Less waking up checking Facebook on my phone. More waking up to completing one written work every day.
2. Be Consistent
The most important thing you have to do to create a new habit is to show up everyday to your action. You did it yesterday; you do it today; and, yep, tomorrow too.
I like to think about it like the star chart that hung on the wall in my elementary school classroom—the one where you got a gold star for everyday you completed a certain task or had good behavior. You had to complete the task every day to get the star. Habits are like this, you have to reset everyday while you’re building them. Make your own star chart for February if it will help you. Even as an adult they are oddly motivating—I’ve made one every time I’ve trained for a marathon. Consistency works.
3. Be Nice to Yourself
We often fail at habits because we inevitably screw up, miss out target, and then quickly determine we’re never going to be successful so why bother. While consistency is key, you also have to lean the art of giving yourself grace.
If you have a bad day and accidentally eat a chocolate sundae for dinner instead of kale salad, move on. You aren’t going to die and your goal doesn’t have to die either. Wake up tomorrow and drink a kale smoothie for breakfast. Resets are okay, just try not to use them everyday. (See point 2).
It’s also okay to do something awesome for yourself to keep motivated along the way. I like to buy flowers when I’ve successfully completed a week of gold stars. Massages work well to motivate me too.
4. Tell Someone You’re Doing It
Misery loves company—so does successful habit making. Tell a friend about your goal, write a blog post and tell everyone you’re going to write this month, and then you don’t have any excuses!
I’ve recently convinced 3 friends to download the 100 pushup app because I want to do more pushups. Sure, I want all my friends to have great arms, but mostly, I know that I’m more likely to be consistent if someone else is going to ask me how my habit-making is coming.
Don’t have any friends who would think this is normal? That’s not a good enough excuse. You’re welcome to tell me.
So, Happy February.
You’ve got 29 days to something great. What’s it going to be?