Habits are the cornerstone of your results. Consequently, whether they’re empowering habits creating great results, or disempowering habits creating bad results, they will determine your results and success in life. As you run the majority of your life by habit, it’s essential to ensure you focus on creating better habits. Also, helpful habits will help you do the things you know are important yet often don’t do because you ‘don’t feel like it.’ Herein lies the first challenge. Because habits are run in your subconscious mind it’s easier to fall back into habitual ways such as grabbing a take-away instead of preparing a healthy meal, especially when you are tired or time-poor. Moreover, it’s often only afterwards when you realise that wasn’t the intended behaviour. So, how, therefore, can we avoid these poor behaviours and create better habits?
Why are habits so powerful and why is it hard to create better habits?
According to scientists, habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit. Furthermore, habits allow our minds to ramp down more often, save energy and effort, and create a more efficient brain. When our brains are efficient we don’t have to think constantly about basic behaviours, such as walking or selecting foods. Instead, we can devote mental energy to improving our lives, in the form of engineering buildings, designing cars or making computers.
I have written extensively on the topic of creating better habits, including the science of habits and keystone habits. This is where it gets interesting. Behind every habit is a reward, a benefit, in the form of a feeling. Psychologists refer to this as “secondary gain.” Moreover, when you can identify the behaviour and work out the feeling you get, the benefit, you can then link the beneficial feeling to your desired behaviour.
Recognising your habit and the associated good feeling
Let’s start with recognising the feeling from a good habit. I am a runner, and on the days I run, I always turn up at my desk feeling energised and inspired to tackle the day. So the feeling I get from running is inspiration. And when I am inspired I am more focused, productive and creative. Furthermore, I navigate the ups and downs of the day better. In conclusion, running is a great behaviour because I enjoy it and I always feel inspired afterwards.
Consequently, focusing on what you love to do is a great way to become familiar with understanding what drives your behaviours. What better habits and activities do you have that makes you feel good? And what is the feeling you get? What happens when you feel like this? Are you more productive, focused and effective? What other benefits are there? When you realise the ripple effect, you can start to look at the positive feelings you get from other behaviours and link this feeling to the desired behaviour you want to implement.
Look at the benefits of poor behaviours to help create better habits
Now we will look at the benefits of unhelpful behaviours. Make a list of all your poor behaviours that you would like to change. Next, write down your desired new behaviours you like to do instead. Ones that when done consistently will become better habits. Here’s a simple example to help you out. Bob gets home from work and instantly goes to the fridge, grabs a beer and a packet of chips. He sits down and before he realises, has munched through the whole packet of chips and a drank a couple of beers. He knows this isn’t helping his waistline and he would like to create a better habit to enhance his life. However, he feels somewhat stuck and powerless to change this behaviour.
When questioned as to the benefit he enjoys, he says the benefit is that he feels relaxed after a hard day’s work. So, the benefit, the secondary gain is ultimately to feel relaxed. It isn’t merely the enjoyment of eating the chips and drinking the beer.
With a bit of questioning and probing, Bob says he would really like to start playing the piano, something he did when he was young. Furthermore, a past-time he loved. However, he found it much easier to go to the fridge, get a beer and sit down with the chips. This is because it’s a habit which is comfortable and familiar and outside his conscious awareness.
Link the positive feeling or benefit to a new behaviour
Importantly, the key here is to connect how playing the piano will help Bob be even more relaxed than drinking a beer and eating chips. Obviously you have to get creative, and the more ways you find, the easier to start changing the behaviour.
Let’s look at a few ways that playing the piano helps Bob feel relaxed:
- Playing the piano is a relaxing and enjoyable past-time
- Listening to the sounds of the piano also feels relaxing
- Focusing on something other than work will take my mind off work so I will instantly feel more relaxed
- Learning a piece of music will take my mind away from the thoughts of the past busy day. This will relax me
- The more often I play the piano the more relaxed I will feel
- I could attend concerts more often and as an added benefit, get out more and meet new people
One benefit of smoking is to feel connected and fit in peers
Let’s look at this with another habit many people want to change. I used to help smokers quit smoking. One of the benefits of smoking is to feel connected to people. Furthermore, many smokers started smoking in their teens because their peers were doing it, and they wanted to fit in. Let’s say you want to create better habits such as learning to draw instead of smoking. You simply get creative with writing down how many ways will drawing help you feel more connected than smoking?
Here are a few:
- You could join an art class and meet people on a regular basis
- Learning art will give you a new topic to talk about when you are with people
- There are often excursions and tours with groups to visit art exhibitions
- Visiting galleries and exhibitions will help you meet and connect with new people
- Later on, you could create your own art practice group and invite people to come along
Take time to creatively link the benefits to a new behaviour for better habits
The more you think creatively around linking the benefits of the old behaviour to a new behaviour with the intention to create better habits, the easier it is to get going. Furthermore, linking the new behaviour with the ultimate benefit, the positive feeling feels good.
A bit like magic, you are starting to find new solutions to your old behaviour as well as placating your mammalian brain. We are hard-wired to hang onto what we have, to keep safe and comfortable. This way you aren’t losing anything and aren’t in danger of feeling insecure. Furthermore, you are creating new neural pathways and programming your subconscious mind with new instructions. Focusing on this is a great way to create a positive Mindset for Success. One that consists of empowered thoughts, behaviours, feelings and better habits.
The more creative you are with linking the benefit, the feeling with a new behaviour, the more reasons you have to get going. When you add in consistency you increase your chances of success and creating better habits. Finally, better habits are the foundations for great results.Better habits are the foundations for success and new results Click To Tweet
Of course, you may need some extra help with creating better habits, as Amanda did? However, she completely transformed her life by focusing on changing her unhelpful habits into better, healthier habits. Understanding how your mind works and how to create healthy habits is a great starting point.
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