“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. Tony Robbins”
Imagine this… It's the beginning of the new year and you are ready to lose those 10 pounds you put on during holidays and maybe this is something you do each new year and you finally tell yourself "what's the point, I can't stick to it anyway". Ugh, right!? Who can feel me on this?
Maybe you get to work a few minutes late every day and you want to work on being on time. Maybe you have attempted to quit smoking and seem to do great the first few weeks and then you catch yourself with friends, at a party, who offer you a smoke. Or, for some of you, it may come from a doctor who tells you that you need to let go of a nasty habit you have come to have a love/hate relationship with. What do you do? How you do make habits stick???
Here are some ways that may be helpful for you when it comes to learning how to make habits stick. We all know how difficult it can be. I've been there a million times myself. So here goes.
- Identify Reasons For Prior Habits Not Sticking
Are you doing this for yourself or someone else? If you are stopping a habit for another person, chances are that you may not succeed as you are not truly vested in changing the habit for yourself. Also, pay attention to the reasons that you have not allowed a change to take place in the past.
Are you afraid of who you may become when you have succeeded? Are you afraid of success, failing? I see this with a lot of my clients in counseling and in hypnotherapy. I often hear, "I am afraid I won't be the same person when I lose the weight". I also hear "people may not like me anymore" or "what do I do when I have succeeded?". When you can identify the reasons for the self-sabotage you can work on it and then move forward.
- Create One Or Two Goals
If you follow my articles you know that I am HUGE on creating one or two goals and then working on those. If you make a ton of goals for yourself, you will not stick to them. Instead you will become overwhelmed and will not complete any of your goals only feeling like crap later. Then the guilt sets in for not having achieved your goal. Let's break this cycle. How? Create a list of all the goals you want to work on, pick the top one or two and focus only on those. Once you have achieved those goals, THEN, choose another one or two goals. Start small. This will lead to bigger and better progress.
- Focus On Today
When we finally pick a goal we want to work on we obsess over how that will look weeks ahead. We worry about how it will affect us at the next party, next vacation, or when we are around those that we used to partake in the nasty habit(s) with. STOP! You can only focus on today. Instead of focusing on how changing your habit will affect you weeks ahead, focus on today.
This is the only day you have control over. In other words, when you pick a goal(s), then work backwards from there. What can you do each day to get to that ultimate goal? Focus on today as tomorrow is a different day and there is no need to live there yet. Living in the future will only cause more stress. Live for today. Ask yourself "what can I do today to reach my goal today".
- Release All Or Nothing Thinking/Be Compassionate
How many times have we all said "F*** it" when we started to work on a goal and then found ourselves taking a smoke, eating that piece of pie, or checking your work email when you told yourself you wouldn't. Just because you had an "oops" moment, it doesn't mean you have to eat crappy for the rest of the day or continue to check the rest of your emails.
This is where you want to be compassionate with yourself. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't tell a friend in the same situation that they blew it and should just continue with the habit. If a friend would not say that to you, or you to a friend, why would you say that to yourself? If they do say this to you, then you may want to re-look at that friendship, but that's another story. Back to my original point - It's perfectly okay to make a mistake, that is how we learn! Just get back up and move forward. You do have control over this.
- Make It Fun And Reward Yourself
To break a bad habit, it's helpful to reward yourself for engaging in the positive behavior. Changing habits or working on new goals does not have to be boring. We make it boring. If you chose to give up nail biting, get manicures to help with the nail biting. This is a good "week long" reward but it is two-fold - in this case, it is helping you stop the habit of nail biting but also gives you a reward.
When rewarding yourself, rewards work best if they are on the same day that you achieve the "wanted" change or goal. Once you've changed your habit or have begun to work on your goal, you won't need to reward yourself as often. As an example, if your goal is to get to work on time, reward yourself with your favorite coffee or tea when you get to work on time. "Rewards are important because when you stop the old behavior you won't get that all important dopamine surge; the reward will give it instead. Over time, your brain will start to associate this new, positive behavior with the dopamine surge coming from the reward." - Sarah Pavey
- Involve Others
One of the best things you can do is tell others, that you trust, that you are trying to change a certain habit. Have them help you hold "you" accountable, day by day, if that helps you. Better yet, have them join you. The more people we involve the easier it is, and let's face it, it's also more fun. If your spouse or BFF does not want to change that particular habit, ask them to help you with accountability or ask other folks to partake with you.
- Track Your Progress
I use an app that I absolutely love and it's called Productive. It's also free. I just type in the goal(s) that I want to work on and I set the frequency and it reminds me when I need to complete my goal. It's also beautiful being able to check off the goal that I completed. If you do not have anyone to hold you accountable, this app will do that for you.
- Replace The Habit
It's great to begin to set a goal of breaking a habit, but the most important thing is learning to replace it with a positive habit. If it's nail biting you are having difficulty with then paint your nails. Most people don't bite their nails if they are beautifully manicured. If eating unhealthy foods at a certain spot in your home/work causes your overeating, say on a specific couch, then change the association with that couch.
Sit somewhere else or only allow yourself to partake in other activities, besides eating, when you sit on "that" couch. If you eat as a way to avoid feeling certain emotions, then it may be time to get down and dirty and actually feel your emotions. You don't have to do this alone. You can call a trusted friend or seek the help of a counselor. You get the idea? Great! Now go kick your habit in the ass and allow yourself to replace those nasty habits!
I hope these tips serve you well. Let me know how you have changed your habits below. I would love to hear from you.