Developing good habits will help us achieve our work, health and relationship goals quickly and easily whereas continuing with bad habits will likely cause us pain, frustration and disappointment. Given that 95% of our thoughts, feelings and actions are habitual, it is important to learn how to set aside bad habits and adopt new empowering ones.
Follow these 7 simple steps to make or break any habit.
Step 1 – Develop Self Awareness.
The nature of habits is that they are performed without conscious awareness. We did not consciously choose many of our habits but simply adopted the thoughts, beliefs and patterns of those around us or acquired them randomly based on experiences regardless of whether these beliefs are actually true or whether the habits will actually serve us.
You therefore need to develop self awareness to identify bad habits you need to break & good habits you want to create. You can gain greater self awareness through God, self reflection, journaling, asking other people, books, programs, courses etc
Once you have identified a habit you wish to make or break, you then need to develop awareness around the habit itself. You need to know when, why, how and where you do your habit
This will help to develop a baseline for current behavior and also help to clearly define the problem, likely causes and solutions. For example, if you know overeating occurs when you are feeling bored, lonely or depressed, you can form new positive strategies for dealing with these situations. Observe your habit for a week or more and get some data on when, why, how and where you do your habit.
Step 2 – Define your outcome
You need to decide what you want instead of your current habit. For example, if your bad habit is getting up late, your new habit goal may be “getting up at 7am on weekday mornings”. Your outcome needs to follow SMART goal setting rules of being Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound.
You can also derive your outcome or ‘habit goal’ from a larger goal you want to achieve such as losing weight or writing a book. Your outcome or ‘habit goal’ might be “to work on my book for 1 hour each week day and 2 hours each day at the weekends” or “to eat salad or vegetables with my main meal at dinner”. For a complex goal such as losing weight, you would likely need to develop a number of habits that will ensure you lose the weight and KEEP IT OFF. Developing HABITS though will ensure the weight stays off, rather than going from one fad diet to another and never developing the PERMANENT habits of healthy people.
Step 3 – Get Motivated
To perform your new behaviour enough times until it becomes a habit, you need to be sufficiently motivated. Because changing a deeply ingrained habit can be difficult, it is important to have DAILY motivation to successfully change the habit. You need to get clear on the benefits and reasons why you want to make the change.
For example, why would you want to lose 5 kilo’s in 2 months?
• To look good
• Feel better about yourself
• Higher levels of energy
• To fit into your favourite dress
• To impress your partner
• To attract a mate…
List every reason you can think of. The longer the list, the stronger your motivation will be.
You also need to consider the consequences of NOT following through on your habit. What will you lose if you fail to develop healthy eating habits, positive relationship habits or work habits?
Where will you be in 6 months, a year, 3 years from today if you continue with your bad habit?
Conversely, what will be the long term benefits 6 months, a year, 3 years from today if you adopt a positive new habit?
Step 4 – Planning & Strategy
Now that you are motivated to change, you need to create a plan and strategy for overcoming your bad habit or developing a positive new habit.
You need to plan in detail EXACTLY how you plan to carry out your habit. For example, if your habit is to go the gym, you will need to rearrange your schedule to accommodate this; allow time to find your exercise gear, shoes, take a drink bottle etc. If you do not make a detailed plan you risk being unable to complete your habit due to poor organisation such as not being able to find your shoes. Not being able to find something may result in you running late and deciding there isn’t enough time to complete your habit before you need to leave for work.
It is important to write your plan down. This makes it more concrete and real and will enable you to think more clearly, in greater detail and with greater focus. You will also be able to remember your great ideas and add or modify the plan as necessary. Treat it as an official document coursing your new plan of action.
You will also need to include reminders before your activity becomes a habit. A problem with habits in the early stages is that we simply forget to do them until after the fact. Use external alarms, reminders and sticky notes as appropriate. Put padlocks or obstacles in your way of doing a bad habit. Get support from friends and family members to keep you accountable.
To ensure success, you need to develop a winning strategy for overcoming your habit based on techniques and strategies that work. For 22+ winning strategies for successfully making or breaking a habit, please download your free e-book summary 7 Steps to Make or Break Habits below.
Step 5 – Mental Preparation
To successfully change a habit, you will need to work on your thoughts and beliefs as well as your physical behavior. It is important for you to deal with negative beliefs surrounding your habit because if you don’t another negative behavior might emerge to replace it. In addition, it will be much easier to change your habits if you are working with your belief system rather than fighting against it. For example, it will be difficult to maintain an exercise program if you believe with all your heart that you can never become fit and healthy or that to do so requires great sacrifice and pain.
To deal effectively with thoughts and beliefs you need to start by controlling your self-talk. You need to reinforce images of success and of yourself with the new habit rather than words that will lead to images and beliefs of failure. You can create affirmations and declarations to renew your mind and override past negative programming. Use your imagination to vividly see yourself doing your new habit with pleasure and ease.
Step 6 – Implementation
To successfully condition a habit you will need to perform the habit every day for 21-30 days.
During this time you will require both conscious focus and willpower. You will have to ‘consciously focus’ and ‘remember’ to do the new behaviour rather than the default behaviour. You will have to do this even if there is no particular emotional attachment to the old behaviour, for example, taking a different route to work or taking 1 teaspoon of sugar with your coffee instead of 2.
Habits that provided you with psychological or emotional benefit will also require WILLPOWER to carry out the habit. When your mind and emotions are craving the old habit you need to summon willpower in order to do the new behaviour.
Willpower and conscious focus are limited resources and can only be used for a short period of time. Therefore it is important not to multi-task habit changes and to just focus on changing one behaviour at a time. By making smaller changes you can also avoid depleting all of your resources of willpower. By learning effective techniques, you can also condition your habit quickly and minimise the amount of willpower required.
Step 7 – Record, Refine & Review
To ensure you get the result you want, it is essential that you record your progress and refine and review your habit at appropriate intervals. Seeing your accomplishments written down will enable you to feel the progress you are making in moving closer and closer towards your goal. Whilst it may take some time for your ultimate goal to be achieved, you will gain encouragement from seeing that you are moving in the right direction. It can also ward off temptation since you know you have to write down what you have done that night. It also allows you to experiment with new habits and see which ones work for you.
To learn how to apply these 7 steps and for effective strategies, tips and techniques for changing habits, download your free Ebook Summary “7 Steps to Make or Break Habits” below.