5 Tips for Changing Old Habits to Form New Effective Routines
Brian Tracy says, “Successful people are simply those with successful habits.”
Mark Twain said, “Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.”
Aristotle also said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Unfortunately, not all habits are good, and as a result, they can hinder excellence. Ultimately, your situation in life is the result of what you do or don’t do every day.
No doubt, bad habits can block success.
But what happens when you want to change your own habits?
Change is hard.
And, as you know, old habits die hard.
To change a habit, it helps to get some proven practices on your side.
Most of us form habits unconsciously, wiring our brains into life-sucking routines that are seemingly impossible to short circuit.
Quitting bad habits can be hard, but new research shows you can make a permanent change with the right tools.
Here are 5 Tips for Changing Old Habits to Form New Effective Routines
Decide what new habit you want to form.
You can’t achieve anything if you don’t know what your end goal is.
So start by deciding what new regular action you want to take.
Maybe you want to get up earlier.
Perhaps you want to change your morning routine, doing yoga before having coffee or doing work before answering email.
While it will be easier to change one habit at a time, write down all the habits you’d like to develop.
Once you create one, you can move on to the next.
Select an activity you already do as a trigger to do the new action (habit).
Remember, it’s hard to change a habit if you have to force your will on it.
Attaching a new action to an existing habit is much easier.
For example, if you want to stop opening email first thing in the morning, use the action of sitting down at your desk as the trigger to the new activity you want to do (i.e. start working).
You can put a sticky note on your chair or computer screen as a reminder until the action becomes habit.
2. REWIRE YOUR ROUTINE
Once you have finally decided, the next step is to either create a plan that hijacks these old cues with a new routine and reward or find a new cue to create a routine and reward around.
After you have created a plan for the new habit you want to cultivate, you are on your way to creating your new routine.
Once you are able to identify how your habits work, you have the tools to override your “bad” habits with new ones.
3. ENLIST SUPPORT FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS.
Let people know what you’re trying to accomplish.
This way they will understand if you want to pass up the desert or go for a walk instead of stopping at the pub on the way home.
When your friends know you are serious about changing a bad habit into a good one, not only will they help you steer away from temptations, they will cheer you on and give you moral support.
We all need support in achieving our goals!
4. LET IT WORK IN YOUR FAVOR.
Make sure your new goals work in your favor.
It’s possible that the new habit you form ends up working against you.
For example, you may discover that putting off checking email means you miss important messages, in which case, a new habit of working first, email second, might not be a good one.
To make sure your new habits are moving you forward to your goals, evaluate their effectiveness.
Consider the payoff and any negative results you’re getting.
5. DETERMINE THE REWARD.
The reward isn’t always so easy to determine.
Maybe the reward you get from your habit is a feeling of control. Maybe it’s an, “Oh good… nothing awful happened overnight,” feeling of relief.
Maybe it’s the, “I’m the captain of my universe and it feels good to mobilize the troops,” feeling you get from firing off a bunch of emails to your team members.
Think about what craving your habit is really satisfying.
Going to the break room for a cup of coffee might not really be satisfying a coffee urge; what you really may be craving is the chance to hang out with other people and getting coffee is just an excuse.
Work hard to identify the reward, because to change a habit the reward has to stay the same.
You won’t deny yourself the reward— you’ll just make the way you get that reward a lot more productive or positive.
Developing a new habit doesn’t require Herculean willpower and self-control, but it does take planning, self-awareness, and mindfulness.
With practice, having a trigger and built-in reward will help develop new routines that will become a habit.
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