Old Habits Die Hard
Old Habits Die Hard | Taking Stock of the Good and Bad While Pushing for Better
It’s been said that a bad habit is like a warm bed on a cold day: easy to get into and hard to get out of. It’s comfortable in that bed and, though you know you’ll soon be putting on warm clothes, the transition is going to be uncomfortable. It’s so much easier just to stay where you are.
So, too, with habits.
By getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, we can learn to ditch the bad habits in our lives and build a bank of good habits that will be like stepping stones to whatever goal we wish to achieve. How do we rid ourselves of those habits that are dragging us down so that we can reach out for the habits of success? The first step is to understand how habits work.
How Habits Form
Habit formation is the result of what researchers at MIT call it the “habit loop.” Their research identified that all of our habits are driven by a simple neurological loop. This habit loop has three parts:
1) The Cue – the trigger that starts the habit.
2) The Routine – the habit itself.
3) The Reward – the benefit you get from doing the habit.
Here’s an example of the habit-loop sequence: Consider a person who has the habit of checking their phone constantly. Their phone gives a notification sound (the cue), they then check the notification (the routine) and finally discover what the message is about (the reward).
By understanding how habits work, we can take control of the habit loop to create good habits and eliminate bad habits This is crucial if we are to going to achieve the goals that we set for ourselves
Identify Your Habits
It can be tempting to want to change all of our habits at once. Maybe you want to start working out, stop watching so much TV, get to bed earlier, quit smoking cigarettes, and stop your late night snacking sessions. However, if you set out to change all of your habits at once, you are likely to achieve none of them. The smart way to change your habits is by focusing on one area of change at a time.
To get started, you must identify your habits. To do this, take a piece of paper and draw a ruled line down the middle. Now, create two lists. On the right-hand side, list all of the good habits that you want to adopt, and on the left-hand side note all of your bad habits. Don’t hold back – get it all down.
Now, review your lists and order them by their level of importance. Once you’ve prioritized both lists, select the bad habit that you most want to rid yourself of. Then, find a positive habit from the other list that naturally replaces it. For example, if your bad habit is eating cheesecake before bed, a good habit to pair it with might be to journal what you’ve been eating each day before going to sleep. When you’re reflecting on what you’ve eaten, you are far less likely to grab for that cheesecake because you are becoming more mindful of your real need for food.
Manage Your Environment
After zeroing in on the habit you want to break, and the one you wish to replace it with, you must take control of your environment to make sustainable changes. Too often, the people we surround ourselves with, and the surroundings we find ourselves in, sabotage our habit intentions; taking control is critical.
The goal is to make it difficult to revert to your old habit. Conversely, you want to make it easy to embrace your new habit. If you’re trying to clean up your eating habits, keep your fridge free of foods that are not aligned with your ultimate goal. If your goal is to journal your daily eating habits, buy yourself a fancy new journal and have it, and your pen, set out and ready to go.
You also need to evaluate your social situation. Try to surround yourself with people who will encourage you with both their words and their own positive habits. These are the people that will support you on your path to success.
Choose Your Trigger
To create a new habit that will stick, you need to decide on a specific cue that reminds you to do it over and over again. Here are three proven ways to create a cue:
Using implementation intentions involves writing down when and where you intend to do your habits in an “if x, then y” framework. For example, if your goal is read more, your implementation intention could be “If I sit on the couch, then I’ll pick up my favorite book.”
This strategy involves stacking a new habit on top of an existing one. For example, if your new goal is to read one page of the Bible each day, you could stack this on top of the established habit of setting your alarm clock. Again, it is powerful to write this down as an intention:
After I have set my alarm clock, I will read one page of the Bible.
Schedule your new habit on your calendar. Specify exactly when and where your habit will take place. Now, either write it on your paper calendar or enter it into your phone’s calendar and set a notification, so you don’t miss it.
Create a Reward
The second phase – creating a reward – is based upon what psychologists refer to as “operant conditioning.” It involves responding to the routine of your new habit with positive feelings that will immediately stir up positive emotions. As a result, your brain will associate the routine of your habit with feeling good.
How you reward yourself is up to you. They key is to give yourself a mini celebration every time you succeed at your new habit.
You’ve probably heard that it takes 21 days to embrace a habit; this is an arbitrary number. Some people may take less time, while others require more. Rather than focusing on that miraculous three weeks, it is better to take a long range outlook. Even if takes you three months to cement in your new habit, with slip ups along the way, the effort is worth it. You will have built a new habit that will stick with you for the rest of your life.
Make Health a Habit
Controlling your habits is within your grasp. Focus on bad habits one at a time, pair them with a good habit, and create your own habit loop. By doing so, you’ll be able to build positive habits that will propel you toward your goals. In the process, you will Become Unstoppable.
Get your good habits off to a great start by booking a session with one of our friendly Gloveworx trainers.