It is hard not to focus on our bad habits and traits. We want to be the best we can be so we end up fixating on our bad traits with the hope of changing them. Yet too often we struggle to make lasting positive changes, we make a change only to find ourselves back in the same place quickly.
I understand this all too well, but over the years have gotten better and better at adjusting my bad habits. You don’t have to be caught in the struggle. Follow these guidelines to help you break bad habits and create good habits for life.
Determine the Why Behind Your Change
All too often we set out to make changes in our life because someone else has determined that it would be a good change. Maybe our mom said it was time to lose a few pounds, or your boss wants you to be more direct or your doctor told you to stop eating cookies. We never become committed to the goal to change, so we quickly go back to our normal habits.
Instead of jumping right in take the time to understand your ‘why’, why do you want to change? Why do you want to stop eating late at night, why do you want to exercise and why do you want to be more direct at work?
Take the time to get specific about why you want to change. For example instead of I want to exercise to lose weight, come up with the exact why behind this. These could be things such as “so I can play with my kids”, “to be able to get off my blood pressure medicine” or “to be able to compete in a mud race”.
The more detailed you are about why you want something the more power you are giving yourself to stick to the changes even when things get tough. It is easier to stay with it if you have a vision of what that change is going to do in your life.
Break the Old Habit
In Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Lapin talks about how in order for a change from a bad habit to a positive habit you need to first eliminate the bad before you can ever add a good habit. Otherwise you are trying to achieve too much at once and you will quickly give up.
Thus your first step should be to break your old habit; once it is gone it will be easier to add a good habit.
In order to break the old habit you need to understand why you are doing it. Sit down and evaluate why you partake in this bad habit. Why are you not exercising? Why are you eating late at night?
Once you understand why you are doing something then you can formulate a plan to eliminate it. For example, when I was working on giving up late night eating I started by figuring out what my trigger was. Once I understood that it was emotional eating I created a plan to have my needs meet without food. Then I created a list of things I could do instead to help break the habit.
Use Small Steps
In addition to creating a list of things that can help you avoid the bad habit you can determine some middle steps to help you adapt to your goal habit. These are not your final destination but instead middle ground to breaking the habit.
For example when I was eating late at night it was typically milk and cookies. The ultimate goal was to completely eliminate the eating to manage weight. Instead of going cold turkey (something I am not good at), I adjusted the late night bad snack to a healthier snack. This allowed my body time to wean off of the sugar while prepping my mind for being healthier.
Another example could be if you are trying to exercise 30 minutes a day you might start with 10 minutes a day instead of the full 30. Find a modification that moves you towards the ultimate goal and begin working on that. Jumping right in 100% is not always the best move.
Make it a Daily Habit
The best way to make this a lasting change is to practice it daily, especially the first few months. The longer that you do something the more natural it becomes. You will be amazed how much you must workout after doing it on a regular basis for a few months.
Add it to a to-do list so you won’t miss a day.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Ask for help if you need it. There is nothing wrong with asking those you love to not bring desert in the house if you have a problem with it. There is nothing wrong with seeking a therapist or coach if you need some extra motivation and accountability. Ask for help and you can make your changes faster!
- Additionally make sure that this is actually an achievable change. If you want to change how much you read every day and decide you want to target reading three hours a day instead of zero but you really only have additional time for about an hour – do not work towards the three hours until your schedule can really handle it! You will just end up frustrated and begin to believe that you can’t make changes.
- If you are making a lifestyle change that is completely opposite of what your current friends and family are doing make sure you get friends who have that lifestyle. For example you are now exercising and eating right, but no one around you is. Seek out exercising buddies who are living the life you want so that you can have a positive influence around you.
- Stop the negative self-talk – when we are constantly being negative to ourselves we don’t empower ourselves to make changes. Every time you say something negative about yourself, stop and correct that thought!
- If you mess up – forgive yourself and keep going. You are not going to get it right 100% of the time, so if you skip a workout or eat a cookie, forgive yourself and get right back on track.
With a little thought and effort you can change your bad habits to good habits. Pick one today and get going!
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