Where you are in your life today is essentially the sum of your habits.
How in fit or unfit you are? A result of your habits.
How happy or unhappy you are? A result of your habits.
How successful or unsuccessful you are? A result of your habits.
Remember the quote, ‘you are what you repeatedly do’. This means what you spend time thinking about and doing (or not doing) each day ultimately forms the results you are seeing in your life right now.
The habits which have been serving you in order to survive are NOT going to be the habits which will help you THRIVE.
So you want to improve? Perhaps you want to form new habits? How would you go about it? Especially when everything you have tried just isn’t sticking.
In NLP we talk about strategies. You see everything you do is a strategy which when repeated, leads to forming patterns.
"Think of it like a snowy hill in winter. Aspects of that hill – the slope, the rocks, the consistency of the snow – are, like our genes, a given. When we slide down on a sled, we can steer it and will end up a the bottom for the hill by following a path determined both by how we steer and the characteristics of the hill. Where exactly we will end up is hard to predict because there are many factors in play.
“But what will definitely happen the second time you take the slope down is that you will more likely than not find yourself somewhere or another that is related to the path you took the first time. It won’t be exactly that path, but it will be closer to that one than any other. and if you spend your entire afternoon sledding down, walking up, sledding down, at the end you will have some paths that have been used a lot, some that have been used very little… and there will be tracks that you have created, and it is very difficult now to get out of those tracks.
"The mental “tracks” that get laid down can lead to habits, good or bad. If we develop poor posture, it becomes hard to correct. If we develop good habit, they too become solidified. Is it possible, once “tracks” or neural pathways have been laid down, to get out of those paths and onto different ones? Yes, but it is difficult because, once we have created these tracks, they become “really speedy” and very efficient at guiding the sled down the hill. to take a different path becomes increasingly difficult. A roadblock of some kind is necessary to change direction.
The good news is, I am going to give helpful framework which will make it easier to stick to new habits so you can improve your health, your work, performance and life!
Let's take a look…
Every habit you have — good or bad (or in between) — generally follows the same 3–step pattern.
- Action (behaviour that you carry out)
- Result & Reward (an outcome and the benefit you gain from doing the behaviour)
To make it simple and easy to remember we can call this ‘TAR’ (like the Aussie slang for thank you, spelt “Ta,a”)
Charles Duhigg's in his best selling book, 'The Power of Habit' refers to these three steps of the “Habit Loop” as cue, routine, reward.
There’s a ton of science behind the process of habit forming, and so you can be confident that your habits follow the same looping cycle, whatever you choose to call it.
OK, so I know you are now wondering, how can you use this structure to this structure to create new habits and actually stick to them?
Step 1: Set a new trigger which will be your reminder for your new habit
This will help you focus on what you actually want to do – form a new habit. Most people wait until they motivated to go to the gym, or till they have the willpower to eat well. This is not a powerful strategy. (Neither is simply remembering to do it) This is because this is conscious and all change happens at the unconscious level.
You will find the motivation and willpower when you get started and form your new habit.
Hence, why setting a reminder is such a critical part of forming new habits. You are repeating the same patterns now because its been engrained in your unconscious, so setting these new anchors will help you engrain new patterns.
When I wanted to form the new habit of getting to bed earlier I would set an alarm to go off 30 mins before so I could start getting myself ready for bed.
A friend of mine who was practicing her new mindset strategy would set her alarm to go off every 30 mins so she could check in with herself and see if she was being present and in the moment.
Another way to set a powerful reminder so you can easily start encoding your new behaviour is to attach the reminder with something you currently do or with an emotional reaction.
Let’s explore what I mean by this starting with something you currently do.
For an example; when I started taking my supplements which I needed to do morning and night, I would put my supplements next to the kettle, so the first thing I would do when I switched on the kettle was see the supplements and take them immediately (well before my coffee was ready!) I would partner that with a full glass of water also, which is also a great habit to get into – starting your day with a nice big glass of H2O.
You see what was done here, was I established a visible reminder and linking my new habit with a current behaviour made it much easier to change. No need to be motivated. No need to remember.
It doesn’t matter if it’s eating healthy, workout out, sleeping early or work related, you can’t expect yourself to magically stick to a new habit without setting up a system that makes it easier to start.
Emotion – the most important element
Think about it this way.
A man who smokes 2 packets of cigarettes per day. Whenever he drinks coffee, gets in his car, finishes a meal or performs any number of ‘triggering’ acts, he lights up. He knows its bad for him and he has quit a number of times, but he returns to the habit and each time full of self loathing. Each time he quits he makes a new promise to that he will not return to that dirty habit, not ever again. However he associates his cigarette habit with emotional satisfaction, and the first sign of distress or discomfort, he reaches for a smoke. He also associates cigarettes with physical comfort, so he doesn’t feel he has completed a meal until he’s had a smoke.
How to Choose Your Reminder
Choosing the correct reminder for your new habit is the first step to making change easier.
Start with making a list of all of the things you do each day without fail.
Drink your morning coffee
Put your shoes on.
Brush your teeth.
You'll often find that many of these items are daily healthhabits like drinking lemon water, morning tea, brushing your teeth, and so on. Those actions can act as reminders for new health habits. For example, “After I drink morning lemon water, I meditate for 10 minutes.”
The other thing you want to get awareness around is what emotional triggers do you currently have and what can you do differently to change your state to create a new trigger. For example, when you are tired, you watch TV, when you are feeling upset you grab chocolate.
Notice what triggers lead you to take unhealthy or actions which don’t support your goals.
Sadness leads to be having alcohol
Fear makes me think nothing will work, what’s the point?
Anger causes me to eat food which isn’t good for me
When you get present to your emotions, you can be in control of changing that state with new habits such as;
Play music – this can energize and make you feel uplifted and motivated
Speak to someone who inspires you
Hit the floor and do 10 pushups to get your body moving, physiology can impact your state
Remember the words you use impact your habits also.
So if you’re saying ‘what’s the point, I am a failure at this – your unconscious mind will believe this. Be responsible for the type of language you use, so when you are changing your state and creating a new trigger use words like “I am… or “I can… For example;
I am in charge of my habits and emotions
I can get to the gym and I will feel energized afterwards
I am easily eating well and fueling my body with energizing food
I am grateful for this food I am eating
Focus on what you want, rather than on what you don’t want as you set yourself new triggers. This is a powerful process to master!
Step 2: Start with one simple change
It’s easy to get caught up in big picture goal, the ultimate achievement and the idea of making massive changes in your life. While this all sounds amazing, it’s the reason why most people fail. We see posts on social media about peoples incredible weight loss transformations and think that we need to lose 15 kilos in the next 4 weeks. We want to earn more, do more, and be more … right now.
I know this very well cause I have been there and I still do it sometimes. I respect the high expectations you have and your enthusiasm, and I also want to remind you to keep it real. Lasting and sustainable change is a product of daily habits, not once–in–a–lifetime transformations.
When I work with my clients we are able to make some pretty incredible fast changes, because I use hypnosis and language to speak directly to the unconscious mind so we are able to accelerate the changes, however it also requires going back out into life when they are not with me, and doing what I am outlining here.
If you want to start a new habit and begin living healthier and happier, then I have one suggestion that I cannot emphasis enough: start with one simple change. In the words of Leo Babauta, “make it so easy that you can't say no.”
How simple? Start my drinking more water each day. Just by doing that you will start to feel better and more energized.
In the beginning, performance doesn’t matter. Become the one who always sticks to your new habit. You can build up to the level of performance that you want once the behaviour becomes consistent.
Here’s your action step: Decide what want your new habit to be. Now ask yourself, “How can I make this new behavior so easy to do that I can’t say no?”
Step 3: What is Your Result & Reward?
It is important to pay attention to the rewards that you are getting from committing to your new habit.
Feel the new emotions and physical responses and give someone a high 5 or yourself a pat on the back! Seriously! Anchor that state of success, no matter how small it is.
It’s important to congratulate and celebrate your small wins cause they will lead to your long-term successes. We are always inspired to do more when things make us feel good. Because an action needs to be repeated for it to become a new habit, its important you are in tine with the result and reward yourself.
For example; when I get my workout in and I put in a great effort, I tell myself, “Great Job, awesome progress today”. You could even tell yourself, “I am a winner, I am a success” each time you do your new habit.
Give yourself some credit and enjoy each success.
Oh and by the way, have fun and enjoy the process of redefining how you carry out your day with your new habit building formula!
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