Since the day we were born, we have been forming habits, what route or way we must perform or act to get the desired outcome. Whether you realize it or not, you have been doing this from day one. As children, we learn that if we act correctly or eat what we should, we get a prize, treat, etc. These are the outside influences to forming our habits. Internally, we learn as well, don’t touch something hot or red otherwise, it will burn. Each one of these stimuli helps us form habits, good, bad, or indifferently.
Why is this important?
We all have habits we love or that we hate about ourselves. It may be the fact you make your bed every morning that helps you start your day. It may be an unhealthy addiction that you do not like that is affecting your health. Realizing that we have habits and how they work can help us change the things we do or do not like about ourselves. To do this, let us look at how habits form.
Habits happen naturally. As we have already discussed, our brains are wired to try and do the things we do habitually on autopilot to save resources for those more challenging tasks. Have you ever wondered how you made it home on your commute and did not remember all of the turns? This was all done from habit. Your mind takes over and keeps these tasks in a memory bank to help save energy. Jobs done repeatedly get filed away as such. Look at your everyday life; what things come as second nature to you? It comes in the form of grabbing your cell phone as soon as you wake up to see if you have messages. It could be the fact that you automatically start the coffee pot as you go downstairs in the morning. These are all things that give you pleasure in the morning. Checking your phone will provide you with a positive reaction if you have messages. The smell of coffee brewing might help you become instantly more alert due to your body knowing that the reward is coming.
How to Change or Add on to Habits?
If you have ever made a New Year’s Resolution, you have essentially tried to change or add a habit into your everyday life. The reason why so many fail is the fact you are trying to make a drastic change quickly, taking a giant leap. Most resolutions typically involve giving up a bad habit of starting a new one, such as exercise or diet. Instead of making these massive changes, why not start with smaller changes?
In Atomic Habits, by James Clear, he defines a 1% rule. The rule of only getting better by 1% per day is a manageable and compounding effect on desired results. Treating a slight change in habit is better than trying to change yourself in one shot. He discusses the fact of adding “micro-habits” into your already set routines. For example, instead of checking messages on your cell phone first thing in the morning, change it up to checking them when you sit down to have that first cup of coffee. By changing this little step when you check your messages, you will see a drastic change in your habit. You will no longer get carried away on your phone ever before getting out of bed, and you can have a time set up to reward your patience to check your phone while you are more productive and alert.
How to Implement
As the example above is a simplified version of a change, you can not check your phone first thing upon waking up. There are several other examples of how you can stack little habits together throughout the day to help you change your goals. I have personally started to incorporate this into my everyday routine. I have to change the way I interact with social media and begin to incorporate 30 minutes of reading per day before me being able to interact with social media. If I want that snack or junk food, I have to perform some exercise or walk before giving in to the temptation.
The Way Forward
No one is perfect; everyone can use some change in their lives; by forming micro habits, we can better implement that change to improve that area in our lives. By making small incremental changes, each one of us can help improve daily. With those gradual changes compounding daily in no time at all, you can effect change for good. We must be brutally honest with ourselves in what things need to be changed in our lives and make a genuine attempt to change them. Habits form our lives, good, bad, or indifferent they are with us, but we can control them and use them to our advantage.
Join the discussion about habits and change in the forum section of the website. By learning from each other, we can pick up on routines that others can implement into our daily lives. Leave a comment down below on what change you are working on today.