By Susanna Newsonen
Habits are a part of everyone’s life. We all have them, we all know of them, and most of us tend to complain about them. Yet not many of us take the time to learn about them. If we did, we would be a lot more successful with building good habits and eliminating bad ones.
With 40 percent of your daily behavior being based on habits, it’s important to stop and take stock of what they actually are. Imagine if 90 percent of that 40 percent is all bad habits, or habits that are holding you back? That’s not a fun nor productive place to be.
That’s why it’s important to become your very own social scientist for your own life. Explore what your habits are, how they have been built, and whether they are good or bad for you. This is where you have to start. Without the self-awareness and the breaking down of the habits, it’s very difficult to start changing your habits or adding new ones in.
To help you get started, I have three questions for you to use when you start exploring your habits:
1. Is this habit helping me to be happier, healthier or more successful?
If the answer is no, it’s obvious you’ve got to let it go. The only tricky part is you can’t just eliminate it because it’s an existing neural pathway in your brain. Instead, you’ve got to dress that bad habit in new overalls to turn it into a good habit you want to keep.
2. How is my habit formed?
Without understanding what your habit consists of it’s impossible to change it or adapt it. This is where Charles Duhigg’s habit loop comes in, with each habit having a cue (a consistent time, location, emotion, person or activity), a routine (the actual behavior) and a reward (some sense of satisfaction). The key is realising that even the bad habits have a reward even though we might not label them as such.
3. Do I want to change one or more habits in my life?
No one can tell you what habits you should or shouldn’t have. You know what is best for your body and being, and you know what habits you are happy to involve in your life. When you’re deciding whether to change a bad habit or to add a new good habit into your life, make sure you have a clear why behind it. Doing it “because someone said so” isn’t going to keep you motivated through your habit change.
The most important thing to remember is that habit change is possible. Even though it’s difficult at the start, the more you stick with it, the easier it becomes. There are lots of different tools and strategies to test when it comes to changing habits and building new ones successfully, but before all that comes the understanding of what habits actually are, how they are formed, and how you can override the neural pathways of bad habits.
Then, like Aristotle said, you’ll be on your way to excellence: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”