Step By Step To Drop A Bad Habit
Research has shown that up to half our daily behaviour is influenced by habit. These actions happen automatically, often without us noticing. They are a powerful influence on our performance, in business and life. So having control of our habits, ensuring that good ones outweigh bad ones, is a critical factor on the path to success.
In recent years, I was able to identify several habits in myself that I would describe as bad, and took steps to address them. And I saw for myself the results that can be achieved. Now I work with my clients on changing their habits to achieve balance and success in their lives.
I want to share with you here the steps that you can take yourself, to make a positive change in your life.
Replace a bad habit with a good one
Take small steps
Write down your reasons
Know your triggers
Take your time
Read on for how to make it happen...
My first thought in this process is to understand that it's easier to start a good habit that to stop a bad one. And if you target your good habit correctly, it will automatically force out the bad habit. So a clear objective here is to start doing something new, not to stop doing something. So, if your bad habit is biting your nails whilst reading, work on starting a new habit for your hands, like squeezing a stress ball or flipping a coin. Find something that will interfere with your bad habit, then focus on that new habit, not the old one. If you like a choc chip cookie at bed time, replace it with a plain cracker or a piece of fruit. You get the idea.
The second thought I have is to do things in small steps, and recognise each step that you take. So, in the first example above, employ your new habit just one day a week to start with. After a couple of weeks, increase it to two days. On so on. By splitting your new habit creation into smaller steps, you'll see progress that will keep you motivated and confident of success.
A third principle I like to adopt is some mindfulness practice. As I say many times, mindfulness practice helps strengthen the mind, and when you are looking to change habits that are running in your subconscious, having strength of mind is a powerful tool. Mindfulness can exist in many forms, so take your pick from going for a twenty minute walk observing the nature around you, a ten minute meditation in an upright chair, or even something as simple as switching off your electronic devices for half an hour. Whether you choose one of these or something else, it's a good habit in itself that will enable you to bring in more good habits.
Next, write down the reason you want to change the habit...how you feel when you have this habit, and how you will feel when it's gone. Always keep that in mind, it's a powerful motivator, and having it written to refer to will ensure you stay consistent and focused.
The fifth step is entering into a bit of psychology, and it's very important for success, especially if you are working alone. Identify your triggers. What is happening, what are you doing, or what are you feeling when the bad habit kicks in. This takes a bit of self awareness from you, but if you are truly motivated to make a change, you will be able to identify the factors. And when you have identified the triggers, you can be better armed to act consciously against them, rather than allow your subconscious habit kicks in. Let's say you always have that cookie when you watch the late news in your favourite armchair before bed. There's a good chance that watching the news is your trigger, or something close. So you have a few options. You could stop watching the news. Or sit in a different chair while watching. Or do some yoga stretches. Once you've identified a trigger, you can use your imagination to change the circumstances and interrupt your habit.
And finally, make one change at a time. Allow yourself to focus on just one habit and work to replace it. Whilst it's tempting to go for two or more when you take this on with energy and enthusiasm, you'll find that attacking one at a time will increase your chances of success and the great feeling you'll have will ensure that enthusiasm and motivation remains for the next one.
My last thought on this is to note that changing habits takes time. Theorists say that it can take up to a month for a new habit to be embedded into the subconscious. I don't know if that's an accurate measure, but everything I've experienced suggests that it takes some time and you should not rush it, or take short cuts. The beauty of this process is that the more time taken, the more solidly embedded the new habit will be, and eventually you will no longer think about. That's when you can feel confident about moving on to the next one.
One of my favorite things is to identify good habits to replace those bad ones (step one above), it's great fun if you use your imagination. If you share your bad habit (or a friends) in the comments below, I'm sure the other readers can come up with some great ideas to set you on your way, and I'll give a helping hand myself, for sure.