Change your Habits, Change your Life
What did you do first thing in the morning? Did you brush your teeth? Jump in the shower? Check your email, the news or your favorite blog? Did you have breakfast? Coffee, tea, juice? What did you do first at work – emails, meetings, a “to do” list? How did you organize your day? What did you have for lunch? Did you work out after work? At what time did you go to sleep? …Our lives are, in a sense, a “mass of habits”-- choices that we made at some point, and stopped thinking about, but continue doing on a regular basis. Habits are behaviors that have become automatic in response to certain cues and in expectation of specific rewards. Habits are in a way, the invisible architecture of our daily lives. They have a tremendous impact on the way we eat, sleep, work, think, feel, react... and hence, in our productivity, financial security, relationships, happiness and success.
The good news, expalins Charles Duhigg in his book, "The power of habits", is that, if we understand the way habits work we can: (1)create new, positive habits AND (2) change old, bad habits
SO HOW DO HABITS WORK?
Habits are formed through a 3-step process called the Habit Loop. It goes like this:
Cue/ Trigger – it can be the time of the day, location, a certain emotion, an action, other people… that motivates a certain behavioral, thinking or emotional pattern
Routine – behavior that follows the cue. It can be physical (brushing teeth), emotional (getting angry) and mental (optimistic way of thinking)
Reward – gratifying consequence of the behavior that motivates us to do it again(i.e. pleasure, relief, escape, distraction)
If the habit loop occurs enough times, eventually the cue will induce a craving for the reward. Once this happens, you won't have to think about it anymore: the behavior will become automatic - the habit will be born!
So how can I apply this to my life?
Create good habits. For example, working out.
Set a cue, such as putting your running shoes next to your bed so you see them as soon as you wake up
Set a reward: for example, a delicious smoothie when you come back from running
Repeat habit loop, lets say, 3 times a week for 3 weeks, to cultivate thecraving
Once you start craving the intrinsic reward of the routine (not the smoothie, but the endorphin rush or the sense of accomplishment) the behavior will become automatic (you wont have to think about it anymore)… it will become a habit!
2. Change bad habits
Sadly, it turns out we can't eliminate bad habits; we can only change them.
Golden Rule of Transformation: to change a habit, you must keep the old cue and the old reward, but change the routine.
Identify triggers of routine. What is it you are really craving? Alcoholics for example, crave a drink because of the escape it provides, the relaxation, companionship, anxiety reduction, emotional release… not the physical intoxication
Create a new routine that gives you the same reward. So for example, if you are turning to booz for relief, why don’t you try talking and socializing.? Or if you are snacking too much at work because you are bored, when you get bored, "catch yourself" and go for a quick walk or allow yourself 3 minutes to browse the internet.
Repeat enough, until you replace the old habit with the new one
This will only work however, UNTIL…. you have a bad day. Under a lot of stress, you will have strong temptations to go back to old habits. For a new habit to really stick, you need a fourth ingredient:
4. To BELIEVE that you can do it.
If you don't believe....... just keep doing it, milestone by milestone, until it becomes true. (Watch video: "Fake it, until you become it")
TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF SUCCESS:
1. Focus on Keystone habits - habits that can be used as levers for other habits to change. These are habits that have ripple effects... Exercise is a great example. It helps you sleep better, it motivates you to eat healthier, it makes you feel great and hence makes you more productive. It also improves your sense of accomplishment, your confidence and hence promotes an overall boost in your life... A healthy breakfast is another great keystone habit. It gets your metabolism going and it sets you off with the right foot to start your day with energy and a positive mindset.
2. Aim for "Small Wins" – don’t seek all change at once. Its just too hard. You will get frustrated and wont end up doing anything. Start somewhere and improve gradually. Win by win, gain confidence in yourself. Remember that WILLPOWER is itself a habit – exercise the muscle!
4. Use the help of others. Get your friend or your partner to start a new habit with you. Join a group or community with your same goals. Even if you decide to go solo, enlist the support of others/ have someone you can call for motivation when you are about to go off track.
If you want to learn more about habits and their application to life and business, consider buying the book