Breaking our habits is a challenge with very few equals. I am talking about permanently breaking bad habits and creating good habits. Not changing our behaviors for the short-term but changing who we are. Whether those habits involve your diet, exercise, work, home, or anything else, changing them is one of the hardest things you will ever try to do. Why?
The problem is that even though you know what you need to do, no matter what it is, you are used to doing what you are doing instead. For example, if you know you need to drink water instead of soda, but you continue to drink soda, it is merely because you are used to drinking soda and not water. That is why we call it a habit.
Chances are that you have tried to use willpower to break this habit, and while it works for a short time, you end up breaking and falling back into your old ways. This is called a habit loop. This happens when you have surface-based goals. Therefore, habits are hard to change.
Don’t worry, though. When you know what you are doing, habits really are not that hard to change at all. The truth is that our actions are actually driven by our beliefs. In other words, if we believe that we are, we will start behaving as such.
Penny was a young woman who never cleaned her apartment or made her bed unless her mother was coming to visit. One day though, Penny decided that she was going to start making her bed because she wanted to be the kind of person who made her bed every day. For a week, Penny made her bed every day. On the seventh day, Penny cleaned up the kitchen after she made her bed. By the 14th day, Penny was keeping her laundry off the floor and put away. By the end of the month, Penny’s apartment was always clean. Penny thought of herself as a clean and tidy person, an adult woman who took care of her home simply because she started making her bed.
Penny learned the secret to breaking bad habits and creating good ones. She realized that it is not about using your willpower to break bad habits, but it is about changing the type of person that you believe that you are.
How Can You Do It?
1. Start out by identifying what you want to do. Penny wanted to be a tidy person. She knew that a tidy person made their bed every day. So that was what she started doing. She began making her bed every day.
2. Break it down in small chunks. Notice how Penny didn’t sit down and make a huge list of how she had to completely overhaul her life to break her habit of being an untidy person? See how she set the small goal of simply making her bed every morning? Most people set themselves up for failure when they are trying to change their habits because they think that everything needs to change right now.
Everything does not have to change right now. The only thing that must change right now is one small part of the big goal. This is called eating an elephant. If you were going to eat an elephant, you would not do it all in one bite. You would have to cut it up into small chunks. You must treat changing your habits in the same way.
3. The third thing that Penny did was to allow the dominos to fall. Penny automatically felt the need to start tidying up other areas of her home, and she did not resist this desire. She allowed these dominoes to fall into place automatically without being pushed. This allowed the changes to take place naturally, which caused her habits to change naturally. This means that since her habits changed naturally, her identity changed. She is now a tidy person and not an untidy person. She now has the habits of a tidy person and thoughts of a tidy person.
That is all there is to changing any habit. It does not matter if you want to lose weight or if you want to be more productive, if you want to exercise more, be tidier, or whatever it is that you want to change, the steps will always be the same.
Step 1- Identify the habit that you want to change.
Step 2- Identify the first small step you can take to make that change.
Step 3- Take that small step consistently.
Step 4- Allow the dominos to fall naturally into place without forcing them
Step 5- Repeat
In our lives, all our behaviors are connected. That means that we can never change just a single behavior. You see, if we intentionally change one of our behaviors, every single one of our behaviors is going to automatically shift as well.
Now all you have to do is ask yourself, what small step can you take that will make a massive difference in your life?
A few ideas:
- Take the television out of your bedroom, so you are not tempted to stay up late watching your favorite Netflix series.
- Lay your workout clothes out before you go to be so you can put them on first thing in the morning and head to the gym.
- Plan your meals before you go to the grocery store, so you know exactly what to buy instead of junk food.
- Know what you are going to eat for breakfast, so you don’t hit the drive-thru again.
- Make your bed as soon as you get out of bed.
- Stop putting that project off and start working on it right now. You know your boss wants it finished.
You don’t have to depend on willpower or hidden secrets any longer. Changing your habits is simple, and now you have the answer to living the best life you could have ever imagined possible.