You want to develop good habits for your health, happiness, career, productivity, and life in general. Great! Forming good habits is the catalyst to success in anything. But, is that really possible for you to change your bad habits into good habits? The short answer is yes. With the right mindset and techniques, you can overcome those habits that aren’t serving you and develop better habits in the process. Following are some tips to help you out.
1. Follow The Golden Rule Of Habit Change
I first read about the Golden Rule of Habit Change in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. It states there is a habit loop of cue, routine, and reward. In order to change your habits, you must insert a new routine in your life. But, first you got to get clear on the cue and reward.
Recognizing The Cues
Cues are signals that cause you to automatically go into a negative or positive habitual routine.
For instance, a friend of mine couldn’t stop gambling. She would often have these urges to head out to the casino, and when those urges arose, she went.
It wasn’t until she took the time to become more aware that she realized her urges followed moments of self-doubt towards her career and worry about her financial status or future.
The habit of going to the casino after these cues had become automatic. Because of that, she wasn’t able to see how these cues and the casino tied in together.
Take Time To Recognize Your Cues
You should take a week, at least, to pay attention to your cues. Each time you get that urge to start a bad habit, contemplate and write down what led to the urge.
If you can, enlist the help of someone you are close to, preferably someone who lives with you. They may be able to spot reasons that you carry out the bad habit that you can’t see yet.
Soon, you will become more aware of your cues – thoughts, urges, sensations, feelings, people, or situations. And that will help you understand when you are going to engage in a routine that you consistently engage in.
Recognizing The Reward
Sometimes it’s easy to see what you don’t like about your bad habits and why you want to stop doing them, but it’s not always as easy to see the reward. And there is always a reward to bad behavior, as Dr. Phil says.
For example, my friend got the reward of distraction. As crazy as it sounds, she didn’t need to think about her financial worries at the casino. She was focused on the games she was playing, the wins and the losses, the atmosphere of the casino, and the people around her. It gave her a break from the stress and worry she was feeling.
She wasn’t aware of that initially. She thought she went to the casino to try to win money. But, the fact was she left with less money than she started with 99% of the time! So the reward was not money. She would never have gone back with such a crappy reward!
Find A Better Routine To Get The Same Reward
A better routine is going to be your new habit.
Now that you know the cues that cause you to carry out a habit and the rewards you get from carrying out the habit, you can come up with a new habit that follows the same cues and gives you the same rewards.
For instance, for my friend, she decided that every time she felt stressed and anxious about finances and her ability to make money (cue), she would go out for a walk or a drive into the country (reward). This gave her the break from her negative thoughts without the pain of spending hundreds of dollars she didn’t have and adding to her financial distress.
What habit would be better suited for you that will give you the same reward?
2. Strengthen Your Beliefs
After you recognize the cue and reward, and replace the negative routine with something more positive, you are not guaranteed to stick with the good habit that you are trying to develop. You could go back to your old ways. That’s where belief comes in.
I’ve found that the more you believe in something positive wholeheartedly, the easier it is to adopt positive beliefs (and habits) in other areas of your life. It’s like a domino effect.
A large body of research finds that religious people live longer, are less prone to depression, are less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, and even go to the dentist more often. – American Psychological Association
Believe In Your New Habit
It’s important that you believe in your new habit. You need to believe that it’s going to change your life for the better and make you happier and give you all the rewards you want from it.
Sometimes that requires research. You may need to read articles or books, watch videos or documentaries, reach out to other people who have been there and done that, or check out studies in order to develop your belief in a good habit that you’ve developed.
The more you learn, the more you expand your awareness around the subject and solidify your beliefs around what you are doing and why you want to do it.
Using Positive Affirmations
I highly recommend using positive affirmations in some shape or form to strengthen your beliefs around your new habits. The more you tell yourself something positive – especially while you are experiencing positive feedback, the more you will believe it. And that belief will help you from reverting back to old habits when stressful days come around.
The great thing about positive affirmations is that they are short and you can post them all around the house to get a quick reminder of what you want to believe about yourself and your life.
For instance, my friend developed these affirmations to help her stop resorting to gambling during high-stress times:
- Taking time to be quiet and reflect helps me boost my creativity and my income.
- I enjoy going for a country drive much more than spending hundreds of dollars.
If you don’t want to create positive affirmations, then look up some quotes that will help you establish your belief in what you are doing. Quotes are essentially affirmations from other people who have been where you are or have gained insight and experience that you can benefit from.
And, whether you have affirmations or quotes, get them printed out or write them down and put them places you will see them often. In our house, we put the most important affirmations on our bathroom mirror so we can see them first thing for a positive motivator to stick with it and develop good habits.
3. Get Social To Develop Good Habits
I enjoy my alone time. In fact, I would probably be just fine on the top of a mountain by myself for quite a long time. But, I know that if I want to develop good habits, I need to be social on some level.
You can’t totally gain the insight, awareness, and belief needed to develop good habits without the input, stories, and truths of other people. They have information and knowledge that you just don’t have.
For instance, I knew that dairy was affecting me badly. I would get bloated, feel sick, have pain in my fingers and knees, and feel congested after I ate dairy. But, when I was craving something comforting (cue), dairy was where I went because my favorite foods had dairy in it (reward). I didn’t know how to gain comfort from food without dairy. When I finally gave up dairy and went vegan, it was because I was in contact with so many people who were celebrating being vegan with good food. I spent weeks listening to vegans talks about their favorite recipes, interacting with vegans in forums, and going to vegan restaurants where vegan food was delicious. It didn’t take long for me to believe that being vegan was easy and fun and I would be able to incorporate new foods that would be comforting – without the pain that dairy brought.
The good news is that experts say you really only need two people to experience these benefits. If someone has insight that you don’t have, then they can help you strengthen your belief around your new habit. They can also help you see how your new habit is affecting you positively and making you a better, happier person, which will be a huge motivator to keep going.
So, if you have a really good friend, family member, or partner, then they may be the most important social aspect you need to develop good habits in place of bad ones.