When it comes to habits, there are 3 healthy options. The first is starting new habits that can improve your quality of life, the second is sustaining good habits that are already working to your advantage, and the third is eliminating bad habits that are negatively impacting you.
To start a new habit, one must first understand that every habit has 3 components: trigger, behavior and reward. The trigger is what causes your habit to occur. The behavior is the actual habit you’re exhibiting. And the reward is the positive feeling that reinforces this habit.
Now that you understand what constitutes a habit, you can initiate a new one through this formation process:
- Identify the new habit you want to start.
- Associate this habit with a positive and effective trigger.
- Establish a reward mechanism where you feel good every time your new habit is executed.
For example, when you’re thinking about going to the gym, the trigger could be losing weight, feeling healthy or getting fit, and your reward could be looking better and feeling more energetic.
With some determination you can create new habits, but the value of such change is in sustaining that habit. Here are some tips for maintaining new habits:
- Empower yourself with discipline – if you can make it through the initial conditioning phase, it becomes much easier to sustain a new habit.
- Be consistent – start with a week, then commit to a month, followed by 3 months, and so on.
- Keep it simple – you can’t change your life in one day, so start small and then increase your challenge incrementally.
- Use the “buddy” system – find someone who will diet with you or quit smoking at the same time, this way you keep each other motivated.
- Accept your imperfections – don’t be hard on yourself if you fail … learn what made you fall off the wagon and start over.
- Remove temptation – cancel your cable subscription if you want to read or meditate instead of watching TV.
- Plant reminders – write down your resolution and post it on the fridge, in your cubicle, next to your computer; somewhere that you’ll see it on a regular basis.
- Reward yourself – this can’t be emphasized enough … you need to celebrate your successes on a regular basis so that your new habit becomes a positive way of life.
As Jim Rohn says: “things that are easy to do are easy not to do”. You just need to know how. So when it comes to deep rooted habits, the same strategy applies. You don’t stop a bad habit, you replace it with a good one.
Bad habits interrupt your life, waste your time, spend your energy and force you to relinquish control over certain aspects of your life. However, bad habits are in your life for a reason, they fill a void or satisfy a need. This is why you need to substitute them, not just stop them. For example, if stress at work is causing you to smoke, then either change your job and stop smoking, or replace smoking with another habit like chewing gum, going for a walk, or drinking water.
Another important thing to remember is that bad habits are not limited to common things like biting your nails, eating junk food, smoking, being constantly late to meetings, etc. Yes, these are all habits of negative influence, and they should be addressed, however there are other bad habits that are rarely addressed such as: jealousy, self-pity, gossip, lying, over-reacting, cutting people off while talking, etc.
A habit is routine behavior, something that is repeated regularly and tends to occur unconsciously. It has been said that old habits die hard and that new habits are hard to form, but the solution is within reach, through persistence and determination. So make a list of your habits, those that you want to start, sustain and substitute. Team up with a friend, surround yourself with people who are supportive, develop a plan that keeps you motivated and accounts for relapsing, then reward yourself and celebrate your achievements at every step of the way.