So we are about ¾ of the way through January. Did you make any New Year Resolutions? May be you decided to:
Join a gym or exercise regularly
Give up sugar, carbs, smoking
Spend less time on your phone or Facebook, or watching Netflix
Meditate or do yoga every day, or many other things…..
How are they going? Whatever your resolution was, if you are like most people, you haven’t stuck to it. And why is that? You probably have a range of excuses – “it’s too hot”,” it’s too cold”,” I have been too busy”, “the gym was too noisy”. But the real reason is that resolutions DON’T work unless you understand how to change your habits or create new ones.
Have you read ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg? If you have you will know what I am talking about, but if you haven’t I highly recommend that you read it. He wrote about the science of habit formation and how by understanding what he called ‘The Habit Loop’ we can change our habits. So how can we do this?
1. Understand how habits are formed
Habits are choices that you continue doing repeatedly without actually thinking about them. As shown by the diagram below, they start with a Cue which triggers an action (routine) and end with a reward. Let’s say you want to change the habit of drinking a glass of wine, when you get home from work every day. So the routine is drinking the glass of wine, which you pour automatically as soon as you walk into your house.
2. Understand what the cue is for your habit
The cue might be the time of day or an emotional state. In this case the cue could be the time of day or it might be arriving home, or feeling tired
3. Work out what the reward is for your habit and try to substitute it with a different reward or find another way to achieve the same reward.
So what reward is the glass of wine providing? Is it a feeling of relaxation? Is it a way of marking the end of the day? The key here is to experiment with other ways of obtaining the same reward. So, for example, if you think the reward might be a feeling a relaxation, what other activities could you use to induce a feeling of relaxation?
Once you understand the cue, routine and reward the habit will be much easier to change.
4. Anticipate the temptations
Of course there will always be temptations and times that your willpower is not strong. What can you put in place to make it easier not to be tempted? In the case of the wine drinking, you could remove the temptation by not having any wine to drink or having an alternative drink available.
5. Have a plan
Research has shown that it takes about 66 days to change a habit. It has also found that you are more likely to change your habit or stick to your New Year’s Resolution if you have a plan and write it down.
WHEN I SEE THE CUE, I WILL DO A ROUTINE TO GET A REWARD.
Good luck with your New Year’s Resolution, it is not too late to start.
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