Habits to Make and Break

First we make our habits, and then our habits make us. – John Drydenfuture and past

No one would critique your habit of going to the gym daily or preparing lunch the night before or limiting TV watching to specific programs. They might envy your discipline and wish they had the same stick-to-it drive. What they don’t realize is that you’ve gotten to this place through a series of steps and missteps, revising and working to find the combination that supports your goals. You are also flexible enough to know that not all habits work forever, and that tweaking and adjusting behaviors is an ongoing process.

What about BAD habits? Whether it’s mid-day snacking, skipping the gym or procrastinating, feeling helpless to change takes its toll on your self esteem. Yet, you feel helpless to change and so the loop continues and you become more discouraged and resigned to accept these behaviors as a given. The good news is that you are not alone, nor are you a victim of genetics. Research breaks down the psychology driving habits into Three distinct stages:
1. Cue
2. Routine
3. Reward
This habit loop is very challenging to break and has actually been hardwired into our psyches. Furthermore, we don’t break bad habits; rather, we replace them with more positive alternatives.

If you are committed to changing your behavior, there are 4 doable steps to begin:
• Identify the stages– what’s the cue/routine/reward series that lead to your habit? Feeling tired in the afternoon and passing the candy bowl or vending machine for a shot of sugar?
• Explore alternatives– what’s a healthier routine? A different route? Getting outside for a quick walk? Packing a nutritious snack?
• Commit to change and adjust as needed– test drive your new routine. Is it enough of a change or can you tolerate something more radical? Perhaps your mid-day stroll for a snack was really a way to change the scenery and move, while the sugar treat was just an added “bonus”
• Anticipate setbacks- make your new habit loop bulletproof. Plan ahead and whether it’s wearing sneakers or packing an apple, prepare for the inevitable slide. It’s OK- tomorrow is another day to begin anew.

When we walk away from labeling some habits as bad, we give ourselves permission to be human. After all, we created them for ourselves and we also have the power to add new ones that rather than break the old, replace them with a preferred alternative.


REDO Your To-Do List

Long-To-Do-List-shutterstock_106155491-e1350582020988You probably use some version of a to-do list. They seem look a good idea, but they simply catalogue tasks yet don’t help you accomplish them.

If all you do is make lists of the projects you need to finish, odds are good they will remain unfinished far longer than you like. Decades of research on goal pursuit shows that when it comes to execution, there are 2 major pitfalls that keep us from doing the things we intend to do.

1. We aren’t specific enough about exactly what needs to happen. There are actions we must take to reach our goals. If your goal is be healthier, you must break that down into component actions, like walking every day for 30-minutes at 7AM, packing a gym bag the night before M/W/F, eating breakfast, etc. So, to-do lists CAN work, if they contain specific actions.

2. The problem that lists don’t solve is finding the opportunity to take action.
• Did you really have NO time to work on that project today?
• No chance at any time to return that phone call?
You probably had the time but were preoccupied with something else or simply forgot.

Achieving any goal means grabbing hold of those opportunities before they slip through your fingers. One solution is IF-THEN planning. Not only decide WHAT you need to do but WHEN and WHERE you will do it in advance. So, if ____ occurs, then I will ____.
For example: When it’s 3PM today, then I’ll stop whatever I’m doing and work on that project. If it’s M/W or F, then I’ll go to the gym before work.

This kind of planning trains your brain to be ready for a certain action at a certain time. On an unconscious level, you are scanning your environment, waiting for the situation, 3PM to occur, so you are much more likely to notice 3PM when it happens and seize the opportunity to take the action you included in your plan.

With each action on your to-do list, add a when and a where. You can transfer your to-do list to your calendar/phone/device- just be sure to pair WHAT you need to do with the details about when and where you’ll do it.

MINI-Plan The Power of Habit

1. Create a routine- teach your brain a routine

2. Set small goals- habit formation is built on small wins

3. Choose a reward- you’re training yourself to associate a behavior with something you enjoy

4. Write it down- Identifying your routine significantly increases the chance that a habit will take hold

What’s one goal to focus on today and break it down into components?
Share with your group > accountability