“We make our habits, then our habits make us.” – Charles Noble
When habits first come about they’re not habits at all but rather a response to a certain situation (usually to gain some kind of reward or to avoid some kind of discomfort).
They turn into habits when we find ourselves repeating or responding in the same way to the certain situation because the action gets us what we want. After a while the tendency to act out in the same way becomes a learned mechanism by our brain to effectively get us what we want when the trigger situation arises. This process becomes a part of our 'subconscious programming' that forms the 'habit' so our brain can stream-line the process and free up mental energy and space.
In other words, a habit is any thought or act that occurs subconsciously (that is, without intentionally thinking about it) when a trigger situation arises in order to satisfy a reward.
Let’s take the simple act of smiling when we’re first introduced to someone as an example: We might find ourselves repeating this action whenever we’re introduced to someone because we've learned from an early age that smiling in this situation will get us a smile back from the other person before pleasantries are exchanged. So when trigger situations (of being introduced to someone) arise in the future, they trigger this learned reaction which gets repeated so many times that it forms a part of our subconscious programming, where we don’t even think about smiling anymore, it's now habitual.
There are two main kinds of habits in life – those that matter and those that don’t. The ones that don’t really matter include things like; picking your nose and folding your socks in a specific way. The habits that do matter however, affect our lives in a more positive or negative manner and include things like; the way you think about yourself when you make a mistake, being glued to your smart phone instead of spending time with your children or loved ones or habits of compulsion like; gambling, smoking, drinking too much alcohol or taking drugs.
Habitual behaviour makes up a large chunk of our lives and it's important that we're aware of our habits that affect our lives and the lives of others so we can work on minimising or eradicating any negative ones and introduce new positive ones that will enhance our lives for the better. So, how on earth do we do that?
Well believe it or not, you've already started the first step(!) which is becoming aware of your habits and the process that occurs in the mind when habitual behaviour is carried out. There are seven steps in total that you need to carry out in order to eradicate a negative habit and introduce a new one. What if I told you do this in 21 days? Up for the challenge? Then read the next article: 7 Steps to Kicking Old & Introducing New Habits - The 21 Day Challenge!