Habit Change Does Not Have to Be Difficult – Here’s How to Do It
By Patricia Wilson
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks – familiar with that saying? Most of us have heard it and we know it refers to the fact that established habits are difficult to break. We all prefer the familiar, the things that we’ve been doing for years, even if we know that a better option exists.
Neuroscientists have already explained why breaking habits is difficult. Complex processes have to be triggered in the brain for the change to occur. Still, as difficult as the process may seem at first, there are things you can do to promote change and accomplish the things that you desire the most.
Identify Habits and Behaviors You Want to Change
For change to be effective, you’ll have to start with a self-recognition process. Ask yourself a simple yet loaded question – which habits would you like to change?
This question will force you to take a look at the things that you do, to open your eyes and recognize the ineffectiveness of one behavior or another. Habits are simple and internalized. This is the main reason why we don’t think about them, why we find them easy to do. In order to stop, you will have to break out of the routine.
Consider the things that you’re doing and the outcome that they’re giving you. Are you doing something to get comfort? Does it help you accomplish anything beyond? The truth of the matter is that you can try many other activities that will give you peace of mind and that will help you grow much more effectively.
Come Up with a Specific Action Plan
Now that you know what you want to change, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to accomplish said change.
A good action plan starts with specific goals. Knowing what you want to accomplish through the change will make it much easier for you to eliminate one habit and replace it with another one.
What are you going to do each day? How are you going to get there in the long run? Describing every single step, knowing what you’ll need to deal with and what you’ll have to eliminate can set a good foundation that you can build upon.
Be very, very specifics. Don’t say that you’d like to become healthier next year. A better goal would be to drop 20 pounds, bike two times a day and reduce the amount of alcohol you consume. You’re now beginning with something so specific that knowing which habits to change is going to be a no-brainer.
Reward Yourself for Successes
Putting too much pressure on yourself is going to make the process anything but enjoyable. This is why you have to slow down every once in a while and take time to recognize a victory.
Rewarding yourself for a milestone or an accomplishment will give you the inner motivation to keep on working on the habits that no longer suit you. Forming new habits can be a draining experience. Small rewards are an excellent option for countering the negative aspects of the process.
The psychology here is simple – rewards make us feel energized and accomplished. If we constantly push ourselves to move forward without ever acknowledging the progress, the process will become much too stressful and it will be perceived as a burden.
A treat doesn’t have to be big one. Self-regard is all about recognizing the progress being made and patting yourself on the back.
Make Small Steps
Many people fail when it comes to changing habits because of a simple reason – they expect massive accomplishments too soon.
If you believe that you can complete a large change in your life quickly, you will eventually be disappointed when the goal fails materializing.
A much better strategy would be to set small goals or break up a certain expectation into milestones. This way, you can begin introducing small habit changes that will eventually add up to a large lifestyle modification.
Baby steps are all that it takes. In fact, taking it slow and making sure you feel comfortable with the change will produce much faster results than pushing yourself too hard. If you overdo it and you try to get rid of multiple habits at the same time, for example, you will eventually give up.
Try to find the pace and the strategy that you feel comfortable with. Don’t compare yourself to other people. If someone needs one year to change their mentality, become responsible and quit a dead-end job, you will not have to do the exact same thing in the exact same amount of time. You will know when you’re on the right track because you will feel motivated and energized to keep improving yourself. What matters is to continue the process, even when you feel like giving up. It will be worth it in the end.
Patricia Wilson is a contributor at AssignmentMasters and a freelance writer who has made it her life mission to beautify her home and her surroundings. Her enthusiasm for all things aesthetic motivates her to share her ideas with others.