We are what we repeatedly do; excellence therefore is not an act but a habit.
Working in the field of psychology for the past 25 years, I have had a front row seat observing my own and other peoples’ habits.
Habits power a large portion of our behaviors. The behaviors we like and the ones we’d like to change. A habit can be defined as a recurrent, often unconscious pattern of behavior that is acquired through frequent repetition. It is this repetition that makes habits the path of least resistance. They become ingrained in our neural pathways, and eventually it becomes more difficult to make a different choice.
If we feel committed to making a change, placing attention and taking action are two things that need to happen in order to make the desired changes.
First setting a clear intention, and place attention on what we’re wanting to change.
We will have to put that intention at the forefront of our mind often throughout each day for approximately a month. Using reminders in our daily planners, or around the house, can help us keep our new intention at the forefront of our minds while they become more and more habitual.
Attention is great, but is useless without Action.
Action is the driving force to make things happen and to ingrain a new behavior. First we need to decide what the necessary action is and then we need to determine how we are going to practice those actions on a daily basis.
Below you will find three steps to creating a new, more preferred habit:
Notice the Habit. Bring consciousness to a habit we want to change. For example, let’s say you are someone who has a habit of having a sweet dessert after dinner every night and you want to stop doing it. You feel the habit is unsupportive of your goals towards greater health. Or let’s say while you work, you check Facebook on a regular basis. You want to see what all your “friends” are up to during the day. And you try to stop…. you may feel Facebook calling out to you to just check one more time. Or you drink coffee in the morning, in fact you leave your coffee maker set to 6:05 am so when you wake up at 6:15 you will smell the aroma of coffee wafting through your house.
Ask and decide what you want to replace the habit with. Unless you have remarkable will power, having a replacement to fit into that habitual behavior is the key to success. First figure out what you are trying to accomplish and then how you plan to achieve that goal. There's a wise saying “if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there”. So what would you like to be doing instead?
Make a commitment to change the habit for a short period of time. For example, instead of saying “tomorrow I am going to avoid FB all day”. Instead say, every time I want to look at FB instead I’m going to do ___________. Whatever you replace it with needs to have some of the similar attributes as the habit you are changing. For example, you can finish dinner with a fruit salad as a transition to taking dessert off your plate.
Changing habits that you feel are not supportive of your goals is incredibly rewarding.
Coming up with a plan that moves you towards your goal is often the most productive way to get there.
Enjoy your new habits!