How to Create Life Altering Habits
Being disciplined with healthy habits may be the single strongest predictor of success in any individual. We each may have different ideas of success including weight loss, better communication with loved ones, reading more books, or running a multi-million dollar business. However, the thing we have in common is that most of us create over-complicated master plans to attain these things. Meanwhile, we fail to do the simple things consistently which is where success truly lives and dies.
It all begins with identity. Everything you are… either how you perceive yourself or how others perceive you is a result of your habits.
You’re overweight? It’s a result of eating habits.
You’re exhausted? It’s a result of your sleeping/resting habits.
Always feel misunderstood? Maybe it’s a result of your communication habits?
Your neighbor is in great shape, always energized and everyone seems to get along with them? What do they do day in and day out that you do not?
According to top Habit experts, it begins with IDENTITY. If you want a habit to stick you have to aim to change the person you are… or become someone who would do that habit. As opposed to just doing the habit as an isolated event in your life.
Let’s say you wanted to lose 15 lbs.
The Wrong Way: You would follow a 60-day diet plan. This would be wrong because at the end of the 60 days you are still the same person, your intrinsic habits did not change at all.
The Right Way: Ask yourself, what does an in-shape person do to stay in shape? Well they get to bed on time to improve mood and energy, they consume fitness articles and videos, they buy healthy foods, they associate with healthy people, they go for walks after dinner instead of TV. By attacking these items, you are changing your world, the way you perceive yourself, and the way others perceive you! You now ARE an in-shape person.
We next have to look at the 4 step process of creating a habit (negative or positive) as stated by James Clear in the book Atomic Habits.
Let’s use scrolling through your phone mindlessly (because it makes you feel good) while laying in bed at night as an example.
Many cues can trigger habits but some of the most powerful is time or location. In this example, the cue could be walking into your bedroom at the end of the night. The fact that it is past 9:00 pm and you are in your bedroom is the cue that triggers a specific behavior.
In this example, you start craving a release of dopamine just by walking into the bedroom. But how will you get this release? By a specific response.
Your chosen response is to scroll through your phone in bed.
Dopamine release! Ahhhhhhhh
So now the habit is, walk into my bedroom after 9 pm, crave my phone! The why is, you want dopamine, who doesn’t! However, this habit is what prevents you from completing your new desired habit of reading a book before bed. By becoming aware of the 4 step process behind your habits, you can more easily implement positive ones and eliminate negative ones.
Now let’s look at some other strategies:
1. Stack one habit on top of another.
So you want to start meditating but it always slips your mind. What you can do is identify an already well-established habit such as eating lunch every day and do the meditation immediately after. This creates a concrete time for the habit every single day.
2. Work on one habit at a time.
Do not implement a second habit until you have been regular with the prior. Another benefit is you can then try to habit stack on top of the newly solidified habit!
3. Reward yourself.
You don’t have to throw a party every time you make a positive change but something simple like check it off can be rewarding. It can create a little dopamine reward in and of itself (Cue - Craving - Response - Reward)
4. Minimize decision-making.
Do not overcomplicate things. Studies show that there is less stress, less decision fatigue, and improved compliance when things are kept simple. If you want to begin stretching more, do not make a list of 15 stretches to alternate through. Instead, start with the same stretch every single day and periodically add new ones.
Small incremental changes in our behavior can create massive changes in our lives. Be patient, Be disciplined, Enjoy the journey.
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