Do you have any habits that you know you should have or any that you have but wish you didn’t?
Habits are a part of every person. They are a part of everyday whether you notice them or not. And that in itself is what habits are about…sometimes you don’t even notice them. They’re essentially routines or patterns formed in the brain to make your day or living more efficient.
Think about absolutely anything you do. From opening a door handle to the way you check your blind spots driving. When learning each and every process you do or action in every day, the mind will try to create the easiest way to make it more efficient so you don’t have to think about it. In other words your brain will put certain things in auto pilot if done often enough in the same pattern. Sometimes these habits could be bad but sometimes they can also be good. Often people don’t even notice what they’re doing or even once they notice they don’t know why they do what they do or how the do what they do.
Good or bad
Whether good or bad every decision, or habit more so will have an outcome or consequence. Unfortunately when people notice their bad habits and they want to give them up, they find it quite difficult. This is totally normal. Your brain has put it into autopilot so why would it want to give it up if it’s made it easier for you. So to not only master and create good habits but to also eliminate or switch bad habits we need to break them down.
The break down
The way to breaking the habit down is into its 3 parts. The order of a habit is as follows.
- Part 1 – Que
- Part 2 – Routine
- Part 3 – Reward
By identifying these 3 parts you can finally take control of your habits and work on them a lot easier and faster.
First think of any habit that you may have good or bad. This is the routine.
Next think of why you do that habit, the reason or feeling you get. This is the reward.
Next identify the cue. What is the trigger to this routine to gain the reward.
Let’s take smoking for an example.
Routine – Having a smoke
Reward – Relaxation, de-stress. There could be a number of reasons but you want to identify your reason to break down your habit.
Cue – Feeling stress, being in a social group that have just gone outside. There could be numerous cue. But, again you need to identify the cue or ques to your habit.
Cue break down
Ques can be further broken down into 5 types. I’d advise righting them down and even recording your habit activity every day on this one or multiple habits you wish to master.
- Emotional state
- Social surroundings
By breaking these down and recording them you are going to be able to tell which ones show up more to action the cue to lead to the routine and results in the reward. It may be one or more of these steps that could have the most control over your habit.
For example…you could be having a smoke at certain times of the day, you could be having a smoke for getting to a certain location or you could feel anxious so then you have a smoke. Now what you need to do is identify this cue to be aware of it. This way you are going to be in more decisive control to make a decision on what to do next. That is step one…isolate and identify the cue. Make sure to write it down.
Next you need to write down all the rewards you get from doing this routine and start testing out different ways to get the same or similar outcome. By doing this you are creating a diversion. For example if your reason to have a smoke was triggered by anxiousness so then you had a smoke to relax. You could alternatively take that time instead to meditate or do something else that will give you the same reward or similar, get creative!
Hopefully by doing this you may be able to slow down the rate in which this habit occurs. Once you do that you have 1 of 2 options. You can either try to eliminate that routine / habit or alternatively switch it to another routine in its place. The second option can and will always be an easier option to go with as this habit is essentially a routine or pattern inside your brain that you have formed over time. The longer it has been there the stronger it will be and the harder it will be to break.
Even creating a new habit can be hard so if you find a bad habit that has the exact same traits or times, or feelings (cues) in place of a good habit that you can switch it into then that would almost be even better. If you could actually switch having a smoke to meditating instead, imagine how relaxed you could feel. Some people may argue that they have 10 or more smokes a day so they wouldn’t have time to meditate every time. That’s fine, but you could use these steps to cut back then hopefully switch it over.
The same principles and steps apply for trying to create a good habit from scratch but it would work in reverse. Think of your desired outcome or reward first (eg. Losing 10 kilos and feeling good).
Next this of what routine must be in place to achieve this reward. (eg. Going to the gym 3 times a week). Now select a cue that you will be able to stick to that will trigger the routine (eg. Putting your runners in your car to go to gym straight after work. Or set a reminder in your phone to alarm you *3:00pm – “Time for gym”). The cue needs to be quite strong so get creative with it and come up with something that will motivate you.
A really good one is, getting a shirt or pair of pants that you wish to fit in and hang them up maybe in the hall way near the front door so when you get home every day, there they are looking at you. That could be a constant cue and reminder!
Getting rid of or switching a bad habit – Identify the habit, workout the reward and break the cue down. Then test out different rewards, be wary of the cues and try to slow or switch the routine.
Creating a good habit – Decide upon the out come / reward, figure out the routine or habit needed, develop and create a cue.
Practice makes perfect so keep testing, give it your all and stay strong! Once you’ve done it for long enough it will soon fall into autopilot!