Do you remember your New Year’s resolutions? If so, are you keeping them? It seems to me, that we all want to eat healthy, avoid sweets and fast food, work out, quit smoking, be productive at work and progress in our lives. Yet, somehow we often give up these resolutions in the second week of January. Building positive habits is hard work. But breaking the bad ones is even harder. In this blog post I’ll look into both cases.
Breaking the habits
I firmly believe that most of us have some habits we are not proud of and we’d like to change it. It might be smoking, overeating, biting the nails, skipping breakfast or just always adding the sweets into our basket at the cashier. In order to break our habits we have to first identify them and make a sincere wish to break them. Charles Duhigg is an expert in this area, he wrote the award winning book The Power of habit: Why we do what we do in our life and business. He suggests following tips to successfully get rid of unwanted habits:
- Identify the routine – look closely at the behaviour you want to change. Ask yourself various questions – what exactly is your routine, what are the possible causes of your behaviour
- Experiment with rewards – think about your personal reward you’re getting from your habit. For example you’re skipping breakfast every morning. Is your reward getting more sleep, be faster, feel more busy and therefore more competent. Experiment with all of them – you can get to sleep earlier to get more sleep, you can prepare clothes you’ll wear tomorrow and prepare yourself for work so you are faster in the morning, try different tools to feel more confident. By isolating different rewards you’ll see what is your actual problem and resolve it.
- Isolate the cue – focus on the time of the day of your routine, location, emotional state, other people and preceding action. Write it down every day and isolate the cues of your behaviour.
Another great mind of the “habits” area is Leo Babauta, he is an extraordinary example of the power of good habits. In his blog zen habits, he teaches people how to improve their lives with positive habits. In many points he agrees with Charles Duhigg. You need to first know your bad habit, have a big motivation to change it, be aware of the triggers of the routine (isolate the cue), understand the need for the habit (experiment with rewards) and on top of it he also suggests to replace the old habit with a new one to satisfy your quench for a reward.
Whatever your bad habit is, make a plan to quit it first. It’s not easy at all to break bad habits. They’re part of us. Getting rid of them will make us lighter and happier.
Building positive changes in our lives
The same way you get rid of old habits, you create new ones. The recipe for positive habits is simple:
- Define your desired habit
- Motivate yourself and share your experience with others – connect with friends of yours and go through these changes with them. Positive feedback will boost your motivation
- Choose triggers – What should trigger your new habit? Let’s say you want to drink water the first thing in the morning. Your trigger might be your alarm clock or your visit to the bathroom first thing in the morning.
- Reward yourself – yes, you deserve a reward. Choose something what will make you happy when you complete your new habit.
This is basically how habits work in our lives. It’s a whole science. Thank goodness, scientists researched the topic and made the whole process of removing the bad habits and gaining the new ones easier for us to follow. Breaking old routines is ultimately boosting our resilience. We’re more aware of our surroundings and we’re more mindful. What habit do YOU want to quit and what habit do you want to create?