New Goal Not Sticking? Put a Ritual Around It

Incorporating a new habit or goal into your daily routine can feel unnatural and challenging, making it difficult to “stick.” If you’re not currently spending time exercising, cooking, creating – whatever the goal may be – how, exactly, do you start to cohesively work those activities in?

My advice: Partner new goals with existing, joyful habits.
Thus, creating a ritual around it.

Throughout the past year, one of my biggest struggles has been carving out time to sit and read the stacks of books I have accumulated. I desperately wanted to read those books, and had made the choice to do so, but I still wasn’t finding enjoyment or consistency in the task. The knee-jerk reaction to want to grab my phone or computer overshadowed the simplicity and attention a book requires. Ugh, technology.

So, I began to think about how I could make the act of reading less cumbersome in my mind (and keep my hands further occupied by something that wasn’t an iPhone). I thought of something else that inherently brings me joy: hot beverages. Bonus: they’re extra enticing this time of year.

I thought that maybe combining something that I liked with something that I wanted to like may create a two-birds-with-one-stone effect. Turns out, it totally did.

Enter: My new reading ritual that stuck.

Ritual: Cup of Tea + Goal: More Reading
– Brew a cup of tea.
– Get comfy, crack open a book, and sip.
Results: Let the plowing through of my personal library commence! Guaranteed 20 minutes of reading + one cup of nourishing tea. Sometimes two. Or three.

There is nothing particularly exciting or inventive about this concept, but the success and allure lies in the intention behind it. I was cultivating these private moments that innately became special and successful due to the attention surrounding their execution. I wanted to change my daily routine to incorporate more positive habits and goals, and surrounding these changes with a sense of ceremony elevated them, thus making them far “stickier” in my life.

This simple lightbulb moment led to the search for other ritual-esque pairings in my life. What else did I want to make sure I continued to pursue, without fail? And without it feeling like a chore?

Here are some more musings on the idea:

Ritual: Podcasts + Goal: More Daily Cardio
– I have a long queue of my favorite podcasts, often feeling as if I’ll never get through them all (which is a good problem to have). If you’re not a podcast person, I guarantee there is one out there for you. Start looking.
– Plug in my headphones, tie on sneakers, walk out the front door.
Results: Guaranteed 20 minutes of cardio + entertainment/insights/inspiration via podcasts.

Ritual: Relaxation + Goal: Writing
– Bring laptop into bed.
– Get comfortable, relax, flex those fingers.
Results: Guaranteed relaxation + a new blog post or several pages for a larger writing project. I work from home and have realized that my best writing comes from the confines of my comforter, not the desk in my studio. I place a lot of importance on self-care in my life, and if I can relax and write at the same time – what better combo?

Ritual: Music Discovery + Goal: Cleaning
– Music while you clean? Not exactly a revelation, but if you’re on Spotify it’s the perfect chance to check out your Discover Weekly playlist for some new-to-you tunes.
Results: I love knowing that my next favorite song could be right around the corner. I also love having a clean kitchen at the end of every day, so win-win.

Ritual: Allocate Funds on Experiences + Goal: Shopping Freeze
– Having trouble curbing your spending habits? *Raises hand as a reformed-yet-still-struggling shopping addict over here.* I feel you, and desperately want to channel my finances into less frivolous avenues.
– When I feel the urge to fill up a cart online with clothes, decor, or cosmetics, I now reroute that potential spend into an event, a class, or travel. Or a savings account for those things in the future.
Results: My calendar is fuller than my closet. I’m acquiring priceless photos and a head full of memories – both proving to be a much better investment than a pair of shoes.

Ritual: Real Life Plans & Pursuits + Goal: Social Media Detox
– I have gone cold turkey on giving time and energy to social media, in the passive sense. It was bringing nothing positive to my life. The amount of minutes spent scrolling through social media feeds adds up to quite a bit throughout the day, and dismantling that reflex to peruse the interwebs during any moment of down time has been challenging.

You may have seen Louis C.K. talking about being a person free from cell phones, but this clip bears re-sharing.

– I check on the people I know and care about on social media, once a day. And I try to reach out to them in real life too. When I inevitably find myself sucked in to the lure of feeds, I consciously redirect my attention so that I refocus on something that will further my goals.
Results: The timesuck/black hole of the internet has been quarantined, for the most part, and my curbed attention within social media goes to those that I care about and intentionally check in on. My time has been redistributed to far more positive/real-life pursuits.

Ritual: Quiet Time + Goal: Resolve Mood Swings
– Do you feel caught in a cycle of mood swings? Lashing out, having bursts of anger, frustration or annoyance? When I feel that ride down into unpleasant personal behavior (thankfully much fewer and far between these days) I find my quiet.
– Take a nap, meditate, go for a walk, zone out with headphones in… whatever I need to do to settle my mind in a solo, quiet place, free from others who may bear the brunt of my bad mood.
Results: I can settle a bad mood without spreading the particle dust of negativity onto the people around me. I am in control of my emotions because I can rectify them myself, by knowing what it takes to swing the pendulum back into a happy place.

Ritual: Seek New Experiences + Goal: Conjure Waning Inspiration
– Do you feel disenchanted by life? Desperately searching for bursts of inspiration to brighten your daily experiences? Or ways to slow down time? Look no further than new experiences (a great guide for getting started).
As I said in my 50 goals in 100 days post, I have long been a champion of new-ness. This continues to be particularly true when I am in search of inspiration, or feel I am lacking it entirely. One of the big facets of pursuing new experiences includes the willingness to try things outside of your comfort zone. I have stopped writing off any type of movie/documentary, concert, event, and the like, just because I think I may not like it. How will I know unless I actually give it a try? So far that approach has only served me well.
Results: A life rich with new experiences that breed inspiration.

I got these two books over the weekend for $1 because I went into a shop that was seemingly only for comic book enthusiasts (which I am not). I’m glad I didn’t let that deter me. Time to brew a few tea bags!

On an unending quest to live my best life through aspiring to be my best self, these pairings continue to aid each step I take in that pursuit.

Change is hard, particularly when it includes actions that feel unnatural within the context of your current day-to-day routine. Start small, and go from there.

Ask yourself:
What am I already doing, and enjoying,
that I can commingle with a new goal or habit
to boost its effectiveness?

P.S. For even more success: Stop being the victim of your own excuses.



Betsy Brockett was diagnosed with Mesothelioma at the age of 28, and continues to thrive despite the challenges that cancer has created in her life. Holding a degree in Art & Visual Technology from George Mason University, Betsy expresses herself through writing, photography, painting, pottery, and more. She is most often found cultivating, creating, practicing/teaching yoga, or simply enjoying the beauty of life.