“Chains of Habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”- Warren Buffet
Our habits define who and what we are. We struggle to kick deeply-ingrained negative habitual patterns and negative behaviours as we get used to a fixed mindset on things and on our habits. As a result, we get used to doing and thinking in some specific ways that it becomes hard to be able to transcend those habits.
Most of us find it hard to adopt and stick with new, healthier and safer habits. Even when we begin to follow a new pattern, we all have a tendency to revert to previous patterns during times of stress. This is due to the comfort factor associated with our older habits.
“Comfort comes as a guest, grows into a host and finally stays to enslave us.”
Unless we let go of old and negative habits, we cannot redefine ourselves in newer or better ways.
You are the product of your HABITS
Our habits define our comfort zones. Any violation of our comfort zone brings us discomfort. So is the case with the violation of some bad habits which when we let them go brings agitation, stress and even anxiety. Many struggle with a range of negative behaviours like smoking, overeating, lack of exercise, and excessive drinking and don’t think that these habits are unhealthy because either these habits make them feel stress free or feel good factor they bring with them. You need to do an honest evaluation of your habits as to whether they are positive or negative.
While evaluating your habits, focus on their relevance and impact. Are your habits strengthening you as a person or are they making you rigid and edgy. For instance, it is very essential to see when you decide to follow a particular habit, is it bringing with it restlessness, agitation or poor health. If it is, it is time to reflect upon those habits and is better to change them. Most of the times, we fail to let go of negative habits because of the comfort we feel inspite of these habits being wrong and harmful.
If you continue to hang on to the comfort of the older ways never attempting to change, these habits tend to degenerate your personality and they become toxic.
“The battle of big dreams, greatnesses is often the battle against our own ingrained habits.”
What makes a HABIT and how they work?
Three things that make a habit.
First, a habit is a specific behaviour not an overall goal or pattern of behaviour. It is like a learnt physical behaviour.
Second, a habit is something you do regularly in a particular situation. It is like a mental mannerism which is consistent.
Third, a habit requires little or no psychological effort to engage in. It is largely automatic.
Repetition and attention is the fuel that keeps habits going, both good and bad. A new behaviour you start to engage in isn’t always a habit. It becomes a habit once you have followed it for so long that it becomes a habit.
According to Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit”, every habit has four components and they form a habit loop.
The Cue causes you to start the habit.
The Routine that you engage in.
The Reward you get for doing the routine, and finally,
The Craving that drives your desire for the reward.
Habit loop identification makes it easy to break away from your bad habits.
There are many things that hold you back whenever you want to change or end a bad habit to create a new one. These things tend to push you back into the spiral of old patterns. Here are some things that hold you back from changing your habits
Lack of determination
Nothing can stop a determined mind from changing an old habit to a new one. But, do you have the determination? Do not let your mind completely disregard your own decisions. Whether you decide to follow a new diet or give up foul language, it is difficult to keep up unless you take it seriously. Be strict with your decisions even if they are difficult.
Lack of purpose
No clarity of purpose leads to lack of inspiration and rewards. If your cue is a negative purpose, then it is difficult to stick with it longer. For instance, it should not come with the intention of making others happy. This kind of negative approach makes your determination weak. You may attempt to change your habits, but this may end up making you angry, bitter and anxious to prove yourself to others. Allow a positive purpose to push you out of the old undesirable habits.
Lack of consistency
Motivation tends to be high when we start something new, then drops off after a while. Permanent habit change requires consistency and keeps you up to date with your new habits. Being consistent with newer habits lets you form new pathways for habit change system and helps you to stick with them. Choose a new habit and provide opportunities to establish the habit. Practice being consistent with your new pattern until it becomes a habit.
Lack of substitution
Whenever you attempt to let go to of old habits, your mind starts feeling deprived of the comfort which is associated with the old habit. The feeling of deprivation makes your mind too rigid to change your old habits. So the only way you can change your habit is to substitute them with newer habits that are equally rewarding and leave you feeling complete and better.
Lack of Belief
Our belief system has a great impact on our habits. We form many of our habits based on our beliefs. We may know and understand how risky certain negative behaviours are, but we indulge in some of them because of our ingrained beliefs. We fail to change them. But if we try to change the deep driving belief, we can change the habit.
Newer ways of thinking and doing will let you change your old beliefs and negative behaviour.
Your Habit Change System
According to the research, once you have followed a new habit or refrained from an old pattern for five days, it gets much easier to stick to and the odds that you will make that habit change stick becomes very high. Here are some ways to change your habits.
Break bad habits
Break away from your old habits. One way to do this is to suppress the cue that causes you to engage in that habit. Prevent cue from happening. Second way to end bad habit is to stop engaging in the routine. And the third way can be by sabotaging your reward so it feels less rewarding and satisfying whenever you indulge in a bad habitual pattern.
Choose one bad habit related to your goal and identify the cue, routine, reward for that and as well as its craving. Select one of the ways and use it every day to break that habit.
Build positive habits
There are some habits whose impact is much broader and they are habits behind habits and are called keystone habits. Building positive keystone habits can have cascading effect. For instance, being healthier makes you more productive, be less stressed out and you spend less on junk food.
To build keystone habits you can use cue piggybacking by choosing an event that occurs on a regular basis to act as the cue for your new habit, then start doing the routine every time your chosen cue occurs. You can also use chaining to build two or more habits that you will be doing one after the other. Try routine substitution to replace a old routine with new. The new routine has to fulfil the same craving as the old routine.
Hold yourself accountable and stay motivated
Avoid getting motivated only by external factors. This makes you feel like you are forced to do, rather than something you want to do. Intrinsic motivation is better when it comes to the habit change system. An external source of motivation that reinforces intrinsic motivation helps you to continue with changing your habits. Holding yourself accountable will get you through brief periods of temptation by strengthening your will power.
Improve your environment to improve your habits
Your behaviour and attitudes are often shaped by your environment. Conformity distorts your perceptual abilities. This impacts your personal development. Changing your environment helps you to maintain your good habits or change from old ones. Put yourself in an environment that supports the person you want to be. Think of one way you can alter your environment to make it easier to maintain your good habits.
Finally, Do not justify wrong habits. Negative self talk holds you back from changing your habits. Maintain your will power throughout your habit change system. Master yourself in ways that lead you into newer habits. Practice self- love and be kind to yourself.