Nearly half of what we do daily happens on “auto-pilot”. Many routine tasks become habits. Like making coffee in the morning or pulling the handbrake when you park your car. Some habits are good, others are bad. Knowing how to control your habits can help you push forward.
” Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going. ” ~ Jim Ryun
What are habits?
We, humans, perform many tasks daily. Many of those repeated tasks go automatically. These automated behaviors help our brain to function more efficiently. When we get used to certain tasks, it has been scientifically proven that our brain activity goes down.
In a research test conducted by neuroscientist Wolfram Schultz, they found that we develop some kind of craving for a reward when a habit loop is finished. These cravings are what keeps us redo the habit over and over again. For example, a smoker will crave nicotine, and a sportsman can crave the “pump” in his muscles.
Why is controlling habits a must?
As we have seen in the previous examples, you have good habits and bad habits. Controlling your habits means that you are able to quit bad habits and start good habits.
If you want to start working out, for example, at first you would have a hard time convincing yourself to get out of bed and to go to the gym. When it eventually becomes a habit for you, it would be much easier to keep working out. It would become part of your day. Something you just have to do.
” Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” ~ Warren Buffett
Photo by Manan Chhabra on Unsplash
How to control habits?
First, you have to identify what your habits are. Some habits are so subtle that we often don’t even notice them.
When we know the habits we want to change, there are several methods to do so.
1. Set a trigger
If you want to change a habit, you need a trigger. You need something that reminds you of the behavior that you are looking to change. You can, for example, place a sticky note on the bathroom mirror that says “Floss your teeth!”. This would remind you every morning and evening to floss your teeth. After a while, you would be able to remove the note because it would have become a habit.
2. Replace a bad habit with a good one
If you have some bad habits, replacing them with a good one will make it easier for you. Let’s say you want to become a healthier person. You could decide to quit smoking and start eating fruits. A good way to make this a habit would be to still take your “smoking breaks”, but instead of smoking your cigarette during that break, you could eat an apple instead. By doing this, the impact on your life would be much smaller as you would still be taking your break. In this case, you are just replacing the cigarette with a healthier substitute.
3. Remind yourself why
If you want to succeed in forming new habits, it is important to remind yourself why you are doing it. Try to realize what you will be able to achieve or what you are risking to lose.
When you want to quit smoking, for example, you can remind yourself why you are doing it. Maybe you do it for someone you love or maybe you don’t want to risk your health any longer.
4. The two-day rule
In order for something to become a habit, it must be done frequently. However, sometimes you can allow yourself to take one day off, a maximum of two.
If you want to become fit, for example, but you can’t get to the gym. In that case, you can allow yourself to take one day off, but never more than two. Because when we start allowing ourselves to do so, a behavior will never become a habit.
So, don’t let excuses avoid maintaining your habits. If you are sick, for example, you could just go to the gym to walk 30 minutes on the treadmill and go back home.
5. Start with small things
Don’t try to change your behavior all at once. Start with small habits, like flossing your teeth every day. (If that is the kinda thing you are into.)
Make small wins and celebrate them. When you know what works for you and what doesn’t, you can start to try changing more difficult behaviors.
What impact do habits have on your character?
When you start building good habits you will feel better and become a happier person. The only way to become happy is to get your behavior in line with your beliefs. And the best way to guarantee your actions are in line with your beliefs is to build them into strong sustainable habits.
In my blogs, I like to recommend books. Books are some of the best sources to learn new things. I, for example, learned a lot about habits by reading The Power Of Habit ~ Charles Duhigg.