We’re all creatures of habit. Some of us are more flexible and can add or drop habits easily. Some find habits soothing while others thrive on spontaneity. Some seem to pick up undesirable habits more readily while others are more cautious. But there are universal truths I’ve come to realize about habits, whether they are considered good or bad habits, and whether people are trying to start new habits or shed undesirable ones. If you’re looking to make change in your life, these 7 truths are sure to help.
1. Baby Steps Add Up.
When trying to change a habit, the cold turkey approach is most often a recipe for failure. I find that little itty bitty incremental shifts in behaviors is usually a far better way to ensure long-term change. For example, if you want to incorporate more exercise into your life, you don’t need to say, “I’m going to join a gym and go for an hour every morning before work.” Instead start easily, such as resolving to walk around the block every evening and doing 5 sit-ups. Baby steps!
2. Building on Achievements Creates Momentum.
Once you start changing a habit with baby steps, you can build on that success. That walk around the block becomes too short, so you extend it to the next block. You find you don’t stop at 5 sit-ups, you keep going and add a couple more. It’s all about momentum; an object in motion tends to stay in motion, both literally and figuratively. Once change is kicked into gear, more change happens!
3. Boycotting Triggers is Critical.
Actions often happen as reactions to an event, situation, or other stimuli; habits are often prompted by an outside trigger. Recognizing what these triggers are can go a long way towards changing your behavior. For example, want to stop gossiping? Maybe skip that coffee klatch that seems to revolve around who’s doing what in the neighborhood. Want to stop snacking at night while you watch TV? Maybe read a book in a different room instead of turning on that sitcom.
4. Be Mindful and Aware
Do you reach for the sugar packets every time you have a latte, without even considering going without? Be aware of your actions and realize that you do have the choice to skip the sugar. As you go through your day cognizant of what you are doing and the choices you have, you’ll likely be surprised at how much you do on a daily basis goes unnoticed because it’s second nature.
5. Believe in Yourself.
If you don’t trust you, who will? Know that you are capable of achieving whatever it is you set out to do. You can conquer those bad habits, and you can adopt those good ones. But the entire house of cards can fall down if you don’t start with a solid foundation of confidence in your ability to do so.
6. Bring Failure into the Recipe.
What? Failure? Include it? Yes. If you aren’t failing now and again, then you aren’t challenging yourself. The person who never risks anything obviously isn’t going to fail, because they are playing it safe. Real change can’t happen if you don’t push yourself, and pushing yourself means potential failure on occasion.