“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Have you ever realized that despite your best efforts to want to change yourself for the better and take on a new lease on life, one way or another you seem to be falling into the same bad habits over and over again?
You’ve got a big presentation tomorrow and need to sleep early? You told yourself you’d sleep early tonight, three hours and about 4 episodes later at 2am you’re still in front of your computer binge watching the next episode this new series you’ve found on Netflix.
The main reason why it’s so difficult to break bad habits and replace them with good ones is because habits are just really strong. In fact, they are so strong that our brains subconsciously choose them at the exclusion of everything else- including common sense and what is worse is that because they are habits they will begin to take root in our lives –becoming more and more automatic over time if we do nothing to stop it.
The good news however is there are a few ways to cultivate good habits to replace the bad habits.
ONE HABIT AT A TIME
Focus on cultivating one good habit at a time. Most of the time, when we’ve set our sights on turning over a new leaf we tend to want to do it all at the same time. This takes too much effort and too much brain power on our end to actively choose to change many different aspects of our lives.
For example, if your goal is to lead a healthier life just focuses on either sticking to a new diet or exercising more regularly. Do not try to schedule exercise every morning before work and start eating only green vegetables for lunch.
Just focus on building one habit until it becomes almost automatic before moving on to building the next habit. This may take a little more time to achieve your goal but it increases the chances of you succeeding.
The reason why bad habits to some of us are easier to build than good habits it’s because the joy you derive from a bad habit is likely to be more immediate when compared to a good habit. Bad habits like binge watching shows on Netflix or eating that whole bag of chips brings immediate gratification telling our brains that this is a good thing.
Good habits like eating healthier foods and getting enough rest and exercise have no immediate benefits that our minds can immediately derive joy from thus making it harder for us to cultivate. Therefore it is important to reward ourselves immediately to provide instant gratification so that even on a neurological level we equate this good habit as good as well.
Sooner or later when you actively take a step towards cultivating your good habit you will start seeing results. At this phase, most people will be tempted to give in to temptation. This part is crucial that you try your very best to remove all forms of temptation that will allow you to fall back into old habits.
Can’t seem to wake up early and you’re tempted to hit that snooze button, don’t give you mind a chance to convince you otherwise. Immediately drag yourself out of bed and get into your habit and daily routine. The main point is to try your very best to stay focused on building your habit.
LOSE THE GUILT
And if all else fails and you do give in to temptation –despite removing all sources of temptation, do not wallow in self guilt. Instead of feeling guilty about it and beating ourselves up about it, the best way to bounce back is to know that it is normal and repeat the process of building the habit.
Shake the feeling like you’ve failed and recommit yourself to staying focused on cultivating that good habit!