How To Start A New Habit
Habits are the crux of success, the keystone of personal leadership. Yet we struggle to either implement new habits, get rid of bad habits or maintain good ones for long periods of time.
Now, there are many studies and great books on this subject. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal are two of my favorites. What I have gleaned from all my studies in this area is that in order to form a habit, it takes a few key things. We are looking to spark the brain into controlled activity and then make that activity a repeated and effortless automatic behavior.
It takes awareness of what happens in your own brain at the moment you either want to start an action, like daily morning exercise, or refrain from one, like eating a whole bag of Oreos. Awareness of what your brain is telling you to do - "Eat the Cookie! It will make you feel good!" or "Skip the exercise! You can always do it tomorrow." Taking a few minutes to breath, be aware of the thoughts and then actively bring to mind the end goal - for both it may be the same - better health. Bringing awareness to any automatic behavior, whether it be making snap judgements or reaching for the cookie, is the first step to taking control of that behavior.
2- Setting up or taking away Cues.
A cue is something that pushes a button in us and prompts the automatic behavior, like watching a commercial about sweet treats may push you to reach for that cookie. TV Ad agencies know how to craftily manipulate this phenomenon. You can learn to manipulate it, too. In the example of exercising every morning, you can lay out your work out shoes and clothing in the bathroom so that as soon as you brush your teeth, you get the prompt, "Time to exercise!"
3- Making it Consistent.
This is the action step. You have to actually do something with your cues and do it repeatedly so that the brain will default to that automatic pattern. However, you don't have to do as much as you think. If a daily workout routine is overwhelming, then simply commit to 5 minutes a day, just the simplest step that will require the smallest amount of effort and time. Make it easy and automatic. Most importantly, you need to make it consistent. Many people issue 30 Day challenges because it has been a long-time belief that 30 days is what it takes to form a habit. However, other studies have shown that it actually takes longer than that, in some cases 60 days or more. Have you ever witnessed someone do a 30 Day Diet and then just slump right into old unhealthy eating at day 31 or 35? If you want to create lifelong habits, you need to be patient and go for longevity. That begins with one small step, done consistently, for as long as it takes. 30 Days can be a good, easy to confront start. Then go beyond the 30 Day Challenge. Go until you feel the habit has been grooved in. You will know when it happens because you won't even have to think about it.
In the case of bad habits you are trying to change, also look at what cues prompt that and what simple action you can take to Not Do the thing that you default to. Enough redirecting of your attention to other actions will begin to dissolve the old go-to behavior and build a new healthier or more productive one.
The reason people are most successful with weight-loss programs that involve a team, group or coach is that accountability is key to helping us stick to our new habits. We are pack animals, thriving best in groups. If you don't believe that, just look at the astronomical rise in mental health issues that resulted globally from isolation due to COVID-19's world-wide lockdowns. We are most successful working in and with a team, whether it be a team of 50 or a team of two. Having someone or a group to help us stay motivated, honest and hold us accountable is key to success in any endeavor. This is especially true when we are trying to start and maintain a new habit or break with some old ones. Find your accountability partner or group that will help you with your new habit. Set up regular check-ins to discuss small successes and failures - Yes, Failures will occur. Accept it as part of the process. We are not going for perfection. We are going for progress! Accept there may be imperfections and lean on your partner or group especially in those times when you need accountability and motivation the most!
These concepts work for an individual as well as a team. What habits would you like to implement personally or within your team? What one small action will you take starting today? Who will help you?
If you need help with motivation, accountability or a little coaching along the way, reach out to me. I am here to help you and your team along your route to success! No one becomes great alone, not even stellar athletes. They have coaches and teams to lean on. Lean on your resources!
Mitch Savoie Hill, Certified Executive Coach, TEDx Speaker, and DISC Certified Corporate Trainer, is the Founder and CEO of SavHill Consulting LLC.
With over 25 years of experience in Sales, Hospitality, Training and Leadership, she delivers engaging and energetic presentations for any company or group wanting to increase engagement and productivity.
Mitch helps her clients clarify their vision, map out actionable strategies, and Stretch Their Horizons!
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