Posted on May 27, 2011 by Tracy Sitchen
Whether it’s about giving up smoking or learning to be more patient with others, most of us have habits we want to change. The actual process of changing habits, well, that’s another story. Entire books have been written on the subject and hit the bestseller list. When boiled down, however, all of these self-help volumes come down to three basic tenets:
Think baby steps
Believe you can fly all you want, but actually changing a dozen hard-hitting habits overnight is a feat few have accomplished. Change is gradual; violent change can have destructive consequences. An example, by cutting out sweets and carbs entirely out of one’s diet at once is a recipe for a later binge or even an eating disorder.
Instead of vowing to wake up three hours earlier every day, start with half an hour or even ten minutes every week. Decide to change just one habit at a time; by the time you have made or unmade a new habit, you’ll know that it’s possible and be ready to take on your next challenge.
How long does it take to form a habit? Thirty days? Twenty-eight? The truth is that no psychologist knows for sure or are willing to tell you. Changing habits takes a different amount of time for everyone under different circumstances. There is no magic number. All you can do is read the rest of this post and strive to change one habit at a time, over time.
Write it down and shout it out
It will be much more difficult to break a promise to yourself if you’ve put it in writing. Though a journal can be stowed under the bed or even set afire, a social network – a friendly workplace, a group of friends, an online forum – cannot so easily be disregarded. Announcing to trusted and supportive individuals about your ambitions gives you accountability, which will serve as the cracking whip or helping hand when times get tough. Improving yourself and changing habits is a journey, not an event.
Prepare yourself for the journey
In addition to writing down the habit you wish to change, map out your obstacles as well as you can. Questions to ask to prepare yourself include:
- What are my motivations? Are they strong enough to sustain the difficulties I will face? How will I remind myself of them when I begin to feel negative?
- What are my triggers?
- What can I do to avoid these triggers?
- What can I do or what positive habit can I develop to perform instead of the undesirable habit when it has been triggered?
By facing your foreseeable obstacles in advance, you arm yourself with prepared responses and tools to further your journey to improve yourself, instead of backtracking into old habits. An example, someone trying to stop from lashing out at employees could prepare themselves thusly:
- My motivations are keeping my job and my work environment friendly and to express myself proactively even when upset. I will cut off my typical reactions by taking deep breaths, going for a short walk, drinking water, splashing cold water on my face, etc.
- My triggers are changes in the workplace, disorganization, lateness, and interruptions.
- I can speak to my employees about timeliness and keep my office in order every day instead of cleaning on only Mondays. Some things are beyond my control and I must let them go.
- Instead of lashing out, I can go for a walk down the hall or up and down stairs, drink water, meditate, etc.
Some habits are easier to change than others, but self-awareness, a support group, and an intricate plan of defense are the most useful tools to have on the journey. A fourth and an unfortunately often overlooked tool is forgiveness.
We are not superheroes. We all experience setbacks. Don’t call these setbacks “failures,” and instead think of them as small stumbles on your journey to improve yourself. Brush the dirt off your hands and knees, laugh at yourself a little, walk with your chin up and keep moving forward.Bio: Tracy Sitchen is a veteran coupon clipper, stay at home, and aspiring writer. While she loves shopping, she loves the chase of the deal even more! She’s recently been writing about Planet Fitness coupons along with Brawny coupons over at her blog where she shares deals and discounts to help every day people save money.