Change your life with habits

If you didn't already know about the power of habits, this post will be one of the most important articles you will ever read in your entire life. I know it sounds like an overpromise, but it's really true and I can say that without being boastful because it's not my idea, I'm just retelling a concept in a nutshell that many smart people already said in great detail.

Many of us want to change ourselves to be better both privately and professionally. We also want to live better and provide a better life for our loved ones.

The good news is we all have amazing untapped potential to reach our goals even if they seem to be extremely unlikely at the present. No, I'm not going to talk about the power of belief, positive thinking or other questionable new age things that promise the world but deliver little in practice. I'm going to talk about he power of habits and their real power.

To become the person we desire to be and to reach our our goals we have to change who we are and what we do every day. But for most mortals it is impossible to suddenly change everything.

Fortunately there is a little known but very powerful fact about how human brains work that we can use to our advantage. Over 90% of what we do every day is based on habits we developed over the years. It's not just your daily routine. It's also how you react to unexpected situations. Only a small percentage of your daily activities and actions are guided by conscious and rational decisions.

The reason for this is simple and rooted in human biology. Conscious thought is hard and expensive in terms of energy consumption. Habitual activities on the other hand are easy and take significantly less energy to perform. To understand the huge difference between the two modes of operation think of the intense attention you needed when driving a car for the first time compared to the extreme ease of how you drive it Today. With practice all the complex decision making and all the actions required to operate a vehicle became habitual and now it takes you almost no effort doing it. Many even enjoy driving.

So, you need to do is kick your bad habits and develop good ones. But how?

It's important to accept that it's not possible to change all your habits at once. Changing a habit takes considerable will power which is according to research is a finite resource. One can only take a certain amount of stress in a day before we give up. Whatever will power one has should be concentrated on changing those selected few habits one sets out to change. If it's a tough habit take up only one at a time. Otherwise you can try 2-3 simpler ones to save time. Once the new habits have been established you can take on the next challenge and change more habits. Eventually over time you can change yourself completely to the individual you always wanted to be. Most importantly being that guy will not take effort on your part.

There is another thing about habits that you need to know which will drastically decrease the amount of will power you will need to establish new habits. It's the two anchors in our minds besides the activity itself that are associated with a habit. One is the trigger and the other one is the reward. You have to work with these in order to get rid of a bad habit or establish a new good habit.

If you want to kick a habit you have to replace the activity that the bad habit was triggered by originally with a new activity. For example if you want to kick smoking, when you see a pack of cigarettes (trigger) you should do something that replaces smoking (bad habit) with something like chewing a gum (good habit). And you should reward yourself with something that is comparable to the nicotine rush. Slowly you will replace the habit associated with the trigger. Finally, without the trigger you will be able to kick the bad habit as nothing triggers it anymore.

To develop a new habit you have to invent a new trigger and a reward for yourself. For example if you want to start exercising every day you should buy new training shoes that look and feel great and place them in a visible area where you stumble on them when it's time to go to the gym. And after training you should reward yourself with something you can look forward to like a delicious strawberry protein shake. Soon you will develop the habit of going to the gym and it will take no effort to get out of the door. You just need to stick with the plan until it becomes a habit. This can take as little as ten days or as long as several weeks. But eventually it will work every time.

You can track the progress of your work on your habits with mobile apps like Way of Life, Habit List, Everest or simply by keeping a journal.

To learn more about the science behind habits you can read the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life by Charles Duhigg.

Painting: Duel by Karol Kolodzinski

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