Learning how to create better habits can have a dramatic effect on both your short and long term goals. Your goals can range from improving your financial circumstances, social connections with friends or to creating better health. Habits are the fundamental things you do everyday which can help you strive towards your goals. The possibilities are endless but require vision and a strong initial conscious effort. Once achieved and strengthened the habit is almost effortless. A general definition of a habit is, “A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” This definition suggests 2 things. Firstly, it is hard to change your current habits for new ones. Secondly, once a habit is established, it is hard to lose it. The stronger the regular tendency, the closer that action is defined as a habit.
How does a habit work?
1. Trigger – An internal or external factor (mental or physical) that creates an action.
2. Routine – The action performed as a result of the reaction to the trigger.
3. Reward or Response – What you gain or lose as a result of the action to that trigger.
One of humans biggest problems is that we normally are too short sighted. We can only see the immediate reward in our actions rather than having a long-term vision.
Weight loss example,
- Trigger – Hunger
- Action – Eating a snack or quick takeaway meal which is unhealthy but gives you lots of salts and sugars
- Response- Unhealthy foods full of sugars and salts cause the brain to fire many different positive emotive chemicals.
This strengthens the choice to the reaction of hunger, as the short-term response is positive. If we expand this slightly with a long-term response
- Trigger – Hunger
- Action – Eating a snack or quick takeaway…
- Short-term Response – Emotive chemicals
- Medium Response – Low energy and quick to gain hunger due to lack of fibre and vegtables.
- Long-term Response – Continued behaviour will lead to weight and health issues.
Here our long-term response needs to outweigh the short-term and needs to be present and associacted with the trigger when it comes apparent.
Now set triggers to reinforce your actions
So, how do we change this particular cycle. In this case we are always going to experience the trigger. Our control is when we feel that trigger to bridge the gap between trigger-action with postive pathways/options and to relate to the long-term response / reward. Breakfast a clear example. The trigger appears, you feel hunger when you wake-up. The action is to eat and this is where you have a choice of how to react to this trigger. You create secondary triggers/pathways to create the better action or habit and an association with the long-term reward.
Each of these change the action and change the responses/rewards.
- Trigger – Hunger
- Secondary Trigger –Notes triggering your long-term response to healthy action. Only having healthy food available. Having a nutrition diary
- Action – Eat planned healthy meal.
- Short-term Response – Feel consisten energy throughout the day
- Medium Response – Fuller for longer and consistent energy
- Long-term Response – Continued behaviour will lead to better health
Creating a new habit…
When looking to create a new habit, you must take time to reflect and see oppurtunities to change old ones. For example, if you wanted to read more, you may have to change a habit when taking the train to work and instead of listening to music, you read a book or listen to a audio book. To help trigger this, you could write a note on your door before you leave, set a reminder on your phone or keep the book with you in your bag. A key component to establish motivation is to link the long-term response with your action. The note would reflect why you want to read more books, e.g. I want to expand my knowledge…I will read a book on the train. In order to master this, you must get good a understand yourself and your long-term vision to who you want to be.
30 Days to create better habits
Studies have shown that it takes 30 days of consistently performing a new habit to reinforce it so that it become unconscious and easy. The beginning requires a lot of conscious effort into starting and the triggers used will help lots. As time goes on the conscious effort needed decreases and decreases until it becomes natural. The best analogy that I have ever been told is that is is like a rocket going off into space. First the initial thrust and effort is huge. To get the rocket started and flying. Then as the rocket creates some momentum, the thrust or effort is less and less until eventually it is through the earth’s atmosphere and the tiniest amounts of efforts keep it on its trajectory. In relation to you, start strong and then continually give small amounts of effort to keep you on your trajectory and create better habits.
Success or Failure
Sometimes, when you try to change your habits you fail…sometimes you succeed. This relates to how important it is to you at that time in your life and how much you value the long-term effects. I once had to change my habit around tidying my room to have a good work space and fresh clothes for work. A few years ago it was important but I got away with working in a slightly messy room and not being too organised. Presently however, I need complete focus on my work and must be very efficient with my time. I give great importance to being professional and having a sharp mind. As a result keeping my work space clean and have clothes ready means that my mind and body are ready to work. I have no distractions and can be the person that I invision myself to be.
Top “How to create better habits” quotes?
“Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”
― Samuel Smiles,
“Enthusiasm is the electricity of life. How do you get it? You act enthusiastic until you make it a habit.”
― Gordon Parks
“A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit.”
“The best kind of happiness is a habit you’re passionate about.”
― Shannon L. Alder
“Feeling sorry for yourself, and your present condition, is not only a waste of energy but the worst habit you could possibly have“. – Dale Carnegie
“The soul, like the body, accepts by practice whatever habit one wishes it to contract” – Socrates
“Motivation is what gets your started. Habits are what keeps you going.” – Jim Rohn
Reading List for “How to create better habits?
The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg