Changing habits, especially unhelpful habits is a key area for changing your results. While good habits serve us well, helping us to create the success we deserve, unhelpful ones limit us and sabotage our success. We are creatures of habit, and as you can see from the quote below, habits are so strong that we sometimes cling to them at all cost, which makes changing habits challenging! Furthermore, we run much of our life by habit; anything from 45% to 95% of every day. Doesn’t it make sense to ensure when you fall back into autopilot your habits are set for success?
Why is a habit so powerful and difficult to change?
A habit is a very simple form of learning and is a routine behaviour that is repeated regularly. The patterns, once learned, are imprinted into your neural pathways and tend to become unconscious. They are stored in your deep, subconscious region of the mind.
“Habits are powerful, but delicate. They can emerge outside our consciousness, or can be deliberately designed. They often occur without our permission, but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts. Habits shape our lives far more than we realise – they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.” Charles Duhigg
It’s great that you don’t have to re-learn how to drive a car, ride a bike, or walk. However, remembering your unhelpful habits is just as easy. You probably know what you need to change, but my guess is you may be struggling?
Habits are run by your subconscious mind and outside your awareness
Habits are stored in your subconscious mind, which, by its very name is out of your conscious awareness. This battle to take control of your subconscious mind which is far more powerful than your conscious mind is one of the biggest causes of internal strife and lack of success in life. Why?
If you instinctively reach for a cigarette the moment you wake up in the morning, you have a habit. If you put on your running shoes and go for a walk the moment you wake up, you’ve acquired a habit. When you automatically sit down with a glass of wine when you get home from work, you have acquired a habit. When you clean your teeth before you go to bed you have a habit. I will leave it to you to decide which is a bad habit and which is a good habit!
Latest research states that it takes anything from 66 days to 365 days to truly lock in a new habit, which I believe to be more realistic than the often-cited 21 and 30 days.
How to start changing habits and achieving success
Pick one new good habit you would like to create and use the steps below.
1. Imagine that all you have to do is to trial this new habit for 30 days. You only have to stick with it for 30 days, knowing that if you don’t like it after this time you can quit and go back to your old ways. Could you commit to just one month of your life? What would be the benefit to you? It may already seem a bit different as you consider it.
2. Now, close your eyes and imagine stepping out to the 30-day mark. Be there right now, and notice how you feel having reached the 30-day mark. Focus on the feeling of already having made that change now. Really notice where this feeling it is in your body and imagine it spreading like a beautiful wave through your body.
3. Review the benefits that will have already occurred by doing this for the past 30 days. A new habit will have been created. You broke the old pattern that had you in its grips. Now there are 30 days of success behind you. Notice again how you feel and as you do so, imagine looking to the future and see the new choices you now have created. The best news is that you can evaluate how you went and it’s your choice what you do from now on. You can either give it away or keep it on.
4. Make a choice to continue for another 30 days, and if you are up to it, select one other thing to add to it.
If you focus on creating one new habit each month, just imagine what you could achieve in a year? Twelve new habits! What a difference a small step makes over a longer period!
Changing Habits TIP
If changing habits still seems daunting, pick a habit that is not related to your biggest challenge. For instance, if you know you have a messy desk, spend too much time on emails, but really, really want to exercise and lose weight, start with an easy one first. Commit to clearing your desk every night or turning off your emails when working on another project. Success breeds success. Therefore by creating new habits in one area of your life, you will feel more empowered, in control and ready to tackle the bigger ones.
Soon you will have your own snowball of success gathering momentum as you keep stepping forward. What would your life look like if you imagine standing at the end of the year looking back, seeing the changes because you changed at least 12 habits? How good would you feel, what would you be doing and seeing?