- Habits are our actions on autopilot
- Our behavior is everything we do
- It can be difficult to change your habits, but it’s not impossible
What are habits?
According to a Duke University study, at least 45% of our waking behavior is habitual. Trying to change your habits can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Some simple steps can influence your thoughts, actions, and outcomes.
Habits are decisions we consciously made at one point, but have made so often we no longer think about them. The behavior became automatic and it no longer required consideration. These habits may be done daily or less frequently, but they continue on in our lives without thought.
The habits you do daily can be as simple as taking a shower or brushing your teeth, or as complicated as getting yourself to the office. Sometimes you can do the habit without even knowing how you got there. Do you remember getting to the office last Tuesday? Are you sure? Or do you remember the aggregate of getting to the office – I always take the subway/the bus/the expressway, so of course I did it last Tuesday.
Or you go to happy hour with your coworkers and find yourself with a glass of wine in your hand and you don’t even recall ordering it, although you know you must have done so because you do remember signing the credit card receipt. Or you have a cigarette in your hand because you’re at the bar – and that’s part of the key with habits. Certain behaviors are triggered by environmental factors. You always smoke at the bar; you’re in a bar; ergo, you’re smoking. It feels so natural because you’ve trained yourself to find it natural.
You wake up every morning at 5a.m., do Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages journal writing, and then you go for a run. Drinking enough water, eating clean food, getting enough rest. Every day, every day, every day. Doing it every day creates the habit, and then the habit becomes that you do it every day.
How Can Habits Be Changed?
It can be difficult to change habits, but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. If you’ve never had a job you liked before, maybe it’s time to find a recruiter or career counselor who can help you. If you love working for yourself but you’ve never saved for retirement before, contact a financial adviser about a Solo 401k. The key is to start small.
Figure out what your pain point is. Do you want to stop eating processed sugar? You need to know two things – what has processed sugar in it, and what doesn’t. Want to stop drinking? Figure out when and why you drink, and take actions to stop your triggers. If you find a 12 step or other program that works for you, go for it with their help. Never be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Get an accountability partner. Say you want to start a new habit, of writing more blog posts on your personal style and fashion page. Make an agreement with a friend that you’ll send them a blog post to read every Wednesday, for example. Then put the appointment in your calendar, and keep it.
If you’re not sure where you spend your time, you can track your habits. This is a great way to practice mindfulness, and bring attention to where your time goes. Say you want to read more books, but whenever you have free time, you pick up a smart device and scroll through feeds. Noticing where your attention is going means you have the ability to pull it back from where it’s currently going, and spend it where you really want to be focused. Starting with small steps means bite-size changes, which may be more manageable.
As Will Durant said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” When you choose to have excellent habits that support the lifestyle you desire, it no longer seems so impossible to achieve your goals or live the life you want.