I would much rather have a new habit. A completed goal means that I did something. A new habit means that I AM something.
The things that we all do on a daily basis are driven by habit, from how we deal with our alarm clock going off in the morning to the way we lie in bed to fall asleep at night.
In between those times, some of our habits are good ones. There are things that you do automatically every day that make you healthier, safer, a better employee, a better spouse and a better friend.
But other habits are taking you the other direction. They make you less safe, less healthy, and less productive.
If you can turn the bad habits into good habits, you can make a dramatic difference in your life. Here’s how to do it.
How To Turn Bad Habits Into Good Habits
- Change one thing at a time. It is very tempting, when deciding to make positive changes in your life, to want it all to happen right now. But take it from me, a man with much experience in failing to achieve goals that I’ve set for myself, that it just doesn’t work this way. You may feel that you’re capable of changing multiple habits at once, and you might be, but you’ll be more successful if you put all that energy into one thing.
- Don’t just quit something, replace it with something better. Change your smoking habit into a carrot eating habit. Change your snooze-button hitting habit into a morning exercise habit. If you just try to quit something, you’ll only be focusing on the thing you’re trying to quit. Replace it, and you will have a new, good habit to focus on instead. Its hard to quit something when you’re thinking about it all the time!
- Make it enjoyable. If you don’t like the new habit more than you liked the old one, you won’t do it. So find a way to make it fun. Maybe you want to get up right away when the alarm clock goes off. Set the alarm that goes off to be your favorite band, or plan something fun to do right away when you get up. Somehow, make the new habit fun.
- Start slow. Slower than you think you should. Even slower than you’re capable of. Maybe you want to replace the habit of eating junk food with the habit of only snacking on fruits and vegetables. Start by replacing one of your unhealthy snacks, like ice cream before bed, with a more healthy one. Then add another.
- Week by week. Each week, improve on the successes of last week. If you succeeded in exercising for 5 minutes a day last week, go for 10 minutes a day this week. Remember, go slowly.
- Have rewards for succeeding. What motivates you? Maybe you let yourself play hookie from work for a day to go fishing once you have cemented the new habit. Maybe you get a massage or pedicure. Give yourself a reward as a motivator, and as a sign of accomplishment. Just make sure the reward doesn’t conflict with the new habit! (i.e. Going out for pizza to celebrate once you’ve locked in your new healthy eating habit).
- And consequences for failing. Make it something that hurts. Have a friend track you and make you donate money to a political campaign for someone you dislike if you go off track. Give your spouse free reign to dump a glass of ice water down your shorts if they catch you falling back into your old habit. Whatever it is, have some outside accountability to dish out punishments.
- Focus on the positive. Yes, there are going to be things you miss about your old habit. But if you followed step 2, there are things you will enjoy about this new habit also. Focus on those and let go of the thoughts about how hard it is, or about how you miss the things you liked about the old habit.
- Think and read about it daily. Every day. If you are trying to replace the habit of smoking, read about the health benefits of being a non-smoker. If you are trying to implement a new habit of stretching every day, read about the benefits of flexibility.
Have a joyful day!
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