You are where you are today because of the sum of your good and bad habits. A habit is essentially any act repeated so many times that its become a part of your subconscious programming. That is, you go into 'auto-pilot' mode when certain triggers arise in your environment, to directly take you to some kind of reward. This is the habit-loop:
This article is going to give you the 5 Key Steps required to disrupt that loop and get rid of any limiting habit, so you can create new & empowering ones & start activating your potential!
STEP 1 - CHOOSE LIMITING HABIT
If you look closely at your life and are brutally honest with yourself I think you know which habits are holding you back, preventing you from achieving your potential. Do you watch too much TV or play video games at the expense of exercising or studying for instance, or eat too much junk food perhaps?
I'll be honest with you, one of my limiting habits was wasting time. I'd find just about any excuse to put things off until the very last minute, instead of focussing on my tasks at hand. Whenever I had a deadline for work I would always procrastinate and would welcome any distraction. In fact, I had identified with being the last minute man. I knew that something had to be done about this, as it was causing me too much angst and stress.
So, right now be honest with yourself, choose a limiting habit that is holding you back from being the best possible version of yourself and write it down: My limiting habit is ...
STEP 2 - IDENTIFY TRIGGER SITUATION/S
Now that we have identified your limiting habit, the next step is to identify all the potential cues or life situations that trigger that habit into effect.
In my example above, my trigger situations included any distraction that would entertain me whenever I had work that was due. So, if I was sitting in front of my computer typing my report and my mobile was in sight, then I would pick it up to see what my fiends were up to on social media and/ or to see if I had any messages.
Identifying the cues that trigger our limiting habit into effect is crucial because these are the prompts that our subconscious mind picks up on before giving the command for our habit to take place.
So, have a good think about all the life scenarios that trigger your limiting habit/s and write them down: My trigger situations are ...
STEP 3 - IDENTIFY REWARD FOR LIMITING HABIT & RATE INTENSITY LEVEL
Now that we have identified your limiting habit and your triggers, we need to dig a little deeper to find out what your reward is for that limiting habit. In other words, what are you really getting out of it?
Continuing with my example above, my reward for putting everything off to the last minute was the immediate short term burst of pleasure I would receive from checking my phone.
If I was to measure that reward, it would only be around the '4.5 mark' because deep down I know I’m just delaying the inevitable and that the longer I put my task off, the more stress it's going to cause me. In identifying our reward and rating its intensity level, we're confronting our subconscious programming and enhancing our metacognition (which is thinking about thinking). It is from this platform that we can begin to rewire our habits.
So have a go at answering these right now: My reward for my limiting habit is ...
From a scale between 1 -10, my intensity level for this rewards is ...
STEP 4 - ARTICULATE NEW POSITIVE HABIT, REWARD & INTENSITY LEVEL
The next step in this process involves asking yourself: 1) What action/ habit would I like to replace my limiting habit with? More often than not this will be the antithesis of your negative habit. Followed by: 2) What will my new reward be (?) and finally; what is the intensity level?
In my example above, I wanted to replace my procrastinating habit with one of proactive and affirmative action. So, my new positive habit was going to be get my tasks done in a timely fashion minus the distractions.
Now I knew this was going to be easier said than done, as when I would previously try to stay on course, my inner dialogue would scream out things like; COME ON, PICK UP YOUR PHONE ALREADY!! So, I needed to make my new reward much greater than '4.5' if my brain was even going to consider carrying out my new positive habit. So, I set about writing down a list of all the benefits I would gain from implementing my new habit and it became abundantly clear to me just how much I had to gain, with my new rewards being:-
Minimisation of unnecessary stress and anxiety;
Feeling of satisfaction knowing that I had completed my tasks before time; and
Freeing up of spare time I could spend on other recreational activities.
So, with these in mind I decided to give my new reward rating a '9' out of 10.
Okay, time to answer these fundamental questions: 1) My new positive habit is ...
2) My new empowering reward is ...
3) My new intensity level is ...
STEP 5 - IMPLEMENTATION OF NEW HABIT
Now comes the most challenging and exciting part of forming your new positive habit! We're going to insert your new positive habit whenever the same trigger situation arises for your previous limiting habit.
Now I didn’t say this is going to be easy as your brain is subconsciously programmed to insert the old habit whenever the trigger situation arises (because it's repeated the same action thousands of times knowing that the old habit is going to lead you to your reward). However, something different is now going on, you’ve become aware of the process!
Your conscious mind is observing its subconscious counterpart and by identifying the previous triggers to our repetitive actions and rating the rewards, it can pin-point the exact moment when you can say: NO, STOP! THIS NOW THE TRIGGER FOR MY NEW HABIT.
This will initially be a challenge because your brain will want to continue with the old path it has become accustomed to. There’s a famous quote by American author and physician Orison S. Marden that sums up this process nicely:
“The beginning of a habit is like an invisible thread, but every time we repeat the act we strengthen the strand, until it becomes a great cable and binds us irrevocably”.
In order for your new habit to form it will require two key ingredients. First, it will need a constant reminder of your new reward that supersedes the old rewards intensity level (which is why you're advised to print this document out after writing your answers to the questions after each step) and second, it will need to be repeated over and over again until it turns into that great cable that Marden is talking about and becomes a habit. Studies have revealed that this can take anywhere between 21 to 66 days depending on your level of repetition.
So be sure to have your written points above handy to remind yourself of what you’re going to accomplish, record your trials and tribulations and remember: make this a part of your daily routine, repetition is key. The effort will be worth the result!
by Paul Pitsaras LL.B B.Int.Bus.