Practice doesn’t always make perfect
As we grow and learn, prolonged practice at doing something enables the brain to flick on the ‘autopilot switch’ for that behaviour, and a routine or habit is formed. Sounds great, doesn’t it – automatic, unconscious behaviours – freeing up space in our overloaded brains and taking the faff out of decision making. Count me in!
However, it’s not all good news because prolonged practice isn’t that discerning when it comes to things like putting yourself down, or always needing a cigarette with a coffee, worrying about what someone thinks about you, or choosing Netflix over exercise, or rushing into bad relationships, etc. and its why we can run into difficulty when it comes to changing our habits – because we are what we practice!
It’s all about who you think you are
Before you even think about the desired outcome or the process to achieve it, start by deciding the type of person you want to be. What does this person believe in, what would they do to get the outcome you seek? Adopting this identity will help you change your self-image and bring your principles, beliefs, and assumptions in line with your self-improvement agenda.
It’s not about aimlessly wishing you had someone else’s life, but about adopting positive behaviours until they become second nature to you. The idea is to keep building on the foundation of the ‘new you,’ and as you strengthen your own new identity, you will be able to use it to stay focused when temptation comes knocking at your door and your willpower undoubtedly waivers.
For more about identity-based habits, check out – NYT Bestseller ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear https://amzn.to/3mYjIuC
Willpower would like to phone a friend…
Writing about habits wouldn’t be complete without talking about willpower – that enigmatic, mystical force taking us to great heights or dumping us down to earth with a thud! It’s fundamentally the art of practicing self-control in the moment and often fails because it can be an inconstant and fickle friend.
So why is willpower unreliable? For starters, it seems it can see right through us if our course of action isn’t truly what we want. It somehow knows we aren’t that serious and, in turn, only provides us with only minimal amounts. Think about a time when you have been on a diet and tempted to break it by having a naughty snack …the reality is what you truly want is the snack – you can’t lie about the internal conflict you feel, so willpower goes back to bed and leaves you to the cookie!
Okay, it sounds like willpower needs a wingman – someone to remove doubt and disbelief and convince it just how serious we are about our habit change…enter commitment.
When you commit to something, you elevate your course of action, and you put a structure in place to make sure it happens and don’t leave it to chance. You can utilise commitment even further by making it public, setting a timeline, and, most importantly, adapting your environment.
Save the plan…protect your environment
Evolution is all about adapting to your environment – survival of the fittest. So, it makes sense that you need to create the right environment to win purposefully when it comes to making a success of your life.
The idea is to set the optimal conditions for your new habits to thrive while adding a little friction to hinder the bad habits and stop them from taking back control. It might be as simple as decluttering your space or changing where things are, where you go and who with, but it’s really worth the effort.
Go tiny or go home
About a year ago, I was given a book called Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything by Stanford Professor BJ Fogg, Ph.D. All I can say is mind blown! It shares, without a doubt, the most logical and easy way to change a bad habit or create a good one that I have ever come across.
The world we live in prides itself on a ‘go big or go home’ attitude, yet tiny is truly mighty when creating new positive habits. In fact, by making micro-adjustments to any task/behaviour, you give yourself the best possible chance to create long-lasting positive change and harness that fabulous feeling of success.
Keeping your new habits tiny means not wasting your time, not relying on motivation or willpower, and not having to delay – you can start right now. And remember, it’s not about breaking things up into steps because one of the required steps might not be tiny, It’s about simplicity and consistency.
For more on tiny habits, check out – Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg https://amzn.to/37WQyI1
Habits always get a lot of attention in January. Still, they are just one part of a wellness ecosystem – they represent a pivot – the start of a path to a new you – a person in control of their destiny (and fridge), who is ready for a whole new year.