It’s difficult to change a habit. Especially when it’s something you’ve been doing for a long, long, time.
Habits are powerful. They get us going, moving, acting, without us even thinking about them.
When was the last time you deliberately thought about every single action you had to do to brush your teeth? A long time ago.
And yet, we develop habits that don’t help us. Procrastinating, smoking, snacking too often, drinking too much, the list goes on and on. And is as personalized to us as our fingerprints.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t change them. We always have a choice, we have the power.
What are some tips and strategies on how to change a habit?
Identify what gets your habit going.
According to The Power Of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, a habit is composed of different parts:
There’s the cue, the trigger. It’s a set of conditions that triggers a habit. That gets a habit going. The cue tells us, our brain and bodies, to start a habit, power down, and just go with the habit already set.
There’s the reward. It’s the specific outcome we want to achieve, and why the habit was set in place. The habit is the means to achieve the reward, without having to expend too much effort mentally and cognitively.
In the middle of it all, is where the action happens. The routine. It’s the specific action that we take.
And when we talk about habits, it’s about the routine we usually refer to. Smoking, eating junk food, exercise, not realizing that there are underling cues that triggers these behaviors, and we’re after a specific reward.
If you want to change a habit, you’ve got to identify the other parts that keep it going as well.
What are conditions that trigger your habit? When do you feel the urge to smoke? Or during what activity do you feel the most hungry for snacks? What environment? What are you doing? What are you feeling?
Also, what reward are you going for? Is it the social stimulation? Is it the feeling of fulfillment? Or hunger itself?
Then, identify the cue, and the reward as well that you get by doing the routine.
Get to knowing the different elements of your habit, so you can work on changing them.
What is it you really crave?
Then, there’s the craving, that encompasses all the steps of the habit. It’s the anticipation of the reward, the yearning to achieve the payoff. It’s the belief that the habit will surely lead to the reward, and the accompanying want to get there.
Along with identifying what the cue, routine, and reward is of your habit, find out what craving is driving your habit to happen.
What are you anticipating to receive? Why is the reward so important for you? What makes it so irresistible?
This takes some introspection, because the reward we look for in our habits, may just be symptoms of something deeper, something we crave for deep inside.
I always used to be hungry, and loved to eat all the time. Even when I wasn’t hungry, I would look for a bite to eat.
I realized that hunger came out when I was doing nothing and was bored, because I craved for fulfillment. I craved to be doing something that made me feel good, and the habit that was born from that? Eating.
If you can identify what craving you have, you’re many steps closer to conquering and changing your habits.
Control your environment
Our environment influences a lot of what we choose to do, and what we feel can be done easily.
Our habits are also heavily enabled and influenced by our environment. I used to live in a house with a lot of snacks and unhealthy food in the refrigerator.
That made it so easy for me to grab an unhealthy snack whenever I felt like it. We always used to have a bottle of soda lying around, and that made it easy for me to drink soda, instead of something with less sugar, like water.
Change and take control of your environment to make it easier for you to make the choices you want to be making.
I go to the gym regularly now, and one thing that’s made it easier for me, is to lay out my gym clothes and prep my bag the night before. So when I wake up, all I have to do is wear my gym clothes, get ready, and go.
Or when I used to do running, I would lay out my shoes and clothes at the foot of my bed.
Now, I don’t have any junk food lying in my refrigerator, and keep it stocked with water and fruits, to make it easier for me to eat healthier choices.
Control your environment, and make it easier for you to change the routine.
Control your environment, and make it easier for you to say yes to what you want, and to say no to what you don’t want.
Start small, really small.
It’s impossible to make big changes in one step. You can’t get instantaneous results when it comes to changing your habits, especially deeply ingrained ones. You have to trust the process to get you there.
And to make change the easiest it can be for you, you have to start small.
And I mean, really small.
What’s the smallest step you can take to create a new routine? Or to change your old one?
When I started exercising, I went for 15 push-ups everyday.
That was a respectable number, but coming from 0 push-ups in a day, I was just beat. My mind and body felt it too hard, and although I was able to finally do it, I couldn’t keep it up when distractions arrived.
Or when I felt just too lazy.
So for the next 2 weeks, I made it my goal to do one push-up a day.
That’s right, one push-up.
To lay the foundation for consistency and action, you have to start small. You have to ease your brain into thinking it’s supremely possible, and get your body used to the sensation of action.
So two weeks, 1 push-up per day, got me used to doing push-ups everyday, that it became easier to do and stick with doing more and more push-ups as time passed on.
When it comes to building and changing habits, it’s not the scale of the action that counts, it’s the consistency.
Focus on one thing at a time to change a habit
I’ve shared with you a lot of information, but they are best used one at a time.
Focus on one thing, and attack it, change it, and make it work for you.
Identify the routine, the cue, the reward, and what you’re craving for.
Control your environment to make it easier to say yes to your new habit, and to say no to distractions.
Start with small steps, and stay consistent.
What has helped you change your habits? Please share in the comments below!
- The Power Of Habit, Charles Duhigg, 2014