We all read a lot of articles about starting habits. Good habits I mean. Everybody agrees that habits can lead to a healthier life, better productivity, happiness and other good stuff for you. The problem is, that when you start to form a new habit, most of the times you have to replace an old (possibly bad) one. And that’s hard - you have to leave your comfort zone and spend a lot of energy without a formed positive feedback loop. When it’s much easier to do the same old thing that your brain knows for sure it will bring a reward.
So let’s say you want to switch to a healthier lifestyle and start exercise each morning. Seems easy when you first think of it. But you’ll soon realize you have to change a lot in your daily routine to fit this new habit. First, you’ll have to reduce the 1 hour coffee&news morning ritual. Then, you have to stop going to bed very late in the evening because otherwise you’ll end up waking up tired and in no mood to exercise. And so on. Something simple at first became very complicated and if you’re not very determined, the new habit will die soon and you’ll return to the more accustomed old ones.
Know your enemy
So the first step in forming a new habit is to identify your old habits. Once you know them you can start to train your will to control, alter or kill them.
The most easy way to do that is starting small. You have a lot of material to work on. Think of all the things you do on daily basis and will provoke you discomfort if you do them differently or don’t do them at all - those are all habits. Pick one or two and start messing with them. For example:
- switch the watch from left to right hand (or vice versa);
- change the pocket in witch you carry your phone or wallet;
- take another route to work;
- switch the side of the bed with your spouse (be careful there - you can end-up on the couch :D);
And I can carry on.
Once you can identify all these little ones and have a little practice controlling them, you’ll start to be able to identify the more subtle ones.
You can even ask your friends and family to tell what habits they observed at you. Prepare yourself to be amazed - they’ll have a lot to tell, because some things you do have become so automatic you’re not aware of them anymore, but for an outsider they’re very visible.
Perseverance, perseverance, perseverance
As I said before, it’s not easy at all. You’ll fail and you’ll fail a lot. But is ok as long as you’re trying again and again. You’ll get better at it every time and one day you’ll have the pleasant surprise to discover you have a new habit.
And yes, you can even make a habit of making new habits if you want :)