I bet when you saw the word habit in the title you immediately thought of a bad habit you have? Well the good news is a bad habit can be turned into a GOOD habit and the even better news – it only takes 21 days to form.
Our current habits have such an effect on our lives and sometimes we don’t even stop to recognise how doing something the same way every day, week or month is ruining our chances of living a better, more balanced and happier life.
What prompted me to write my blog about habits this week is due to a lovely slice of cream cake. I decided to give up biscuits, sweets and crisps for Lent and was delighted yesterday to discover that I am 3 weeks down with only 3.5 to go. Every year I do this. To be honest, it’s more to do with loosing a few pounds than any religious reason. Sorry I digress. I substituted the biscuits with a piece of fruit over the last few weeks when I have my mid morning coffee. That was until my son’s birthday earlier this week. For the occasion, I bought a lovely fresh cream sponge and what wasn’t eaten on the day was left in the fridge. This morning, as I proceeded to cut myself a rather large chunk of what’s left of the cake, I realised that I had eaten practically all the remaining cake over the last few days. Suddenly, I coped that I had started a new bad habit. How easy was that to let myself fall into that trap! Now I know, I can stop, which is why awareness is so important.
When I work with my clients either in their professional or private lives, examining their habits is always one of the most beneficial things that happens as part of their coaching journey. Often we are blind to our habits and don’t realise the impact they are having on our lives. One of my clients is an Executive in the Corporate world. When he examined his daily routine, he discovered that once he turned on his laptop, his day and his actions were being dictated by other people’s requests. By simply deciding to refrain from turning on his laptop for the first hour of the day, gave him the opportunity to concentrate on what he wanted and needed to do. He said he could not believe how replacing an old habit with a new habit could yield such wonderful results in his work life. Immediately he felt he was more productive in work, his mind was clearer, he had more control over his day and he stopped chasing his tail. The benefits also spilled over into his personal life. He brought less work home, his mind wasn’t preoccupied with work when he was at home and he could enjoy more valuable time with his family.
So that’s the easy bit – noticing the bad habit and replacing it with a good one. But the trick is to do it for 21 days. When we do something for 21 days our brain automatically thinks, hey this is a new habit and your sub conscious kicks in. But we are all creatures of habit lets be honest…. creating a new habit requires energy – more energy than we usually have to expend as this new habit doesn’t feel familiar….. YET!!
So, how do you go about ensuring you stay the course? Here are a couple of things that might help:
1) Simply get a blank piece of paper and write across the top what your new habit is. Then divide the sheet into 21 boxes. Hang it somewhere visible and each day as you complete your new habit, tick the box. A visual aide is very powerful and as you see the boxes being ticked, it will give you the motivation to keep going.
2) Ask someone to hold you accountable. I can’t encourage you enough to do this. The power of being held accountable really works it magic. Try it.
3) Promise yourself a little reward at the end of the 21 days …. nothing like a little retail therapy to act as a motivator. So if your habit is to cut junk and loose a few pounds over the 21 days, reward yourself so that the benefit of the habit really means something for you.
4) If you fall off the wagon, don’t worry. Start again. Ask yourself why have you slipped? Is there something above you didn’t do that may have helped? If so, what was it and start again tomorrow.
5) Start off small and build it up. Maybe you have gotten into a bad habit of having 6 cups of coffee a day. Stopping them all and going cold turkey might not be the answer. Maybe the habit would be to cut out all the cups after lunch for the next 21 days and see how that feels. Who knows, maybe in 42 days time you might be down to one a day!!
6) The ‘No Exceptions Policy’ – I love this one. By applying the no exceptions policy removes any temptation in your mind. So in the example above, my Executive made a conscious decision not to turn on his laptop for that first hour in the morning – without exception! There was no debate happening in his mind whether he would or wouldn’t. And the results he got spoke for themselves.
Now time to ask yourself – are you doing something in your day to day life that you know is a bad habit and isn’t serving you? Or, is there something you could start doing that could equally serve you well…..
I would love to hear your stories of a) how applying a good habit changed some part of your life, b) what you did and c) how you ensured you did it.
We all learn from each other so please share ….
Bye for now