In my last blog post, I introduced the notion ‘we are our habits’. In this follow up post, I am going deeper to explore how we change our habits. I mentioned the importance of noticing our habits. This is the necessary first step. If we are blind to our habits we have no ability to change them.
How can we change our our habits?
Now you see your habits, how can you change them? This is the hard part because our habits are usually hard wired. If it was easy to stop them, wouldn’t we have done it already? I think of the challenges people have with stopping smoking. It most definitely is not easy to do. In his excellent book Atomic Habits, James Clear outlines four laws of behavior change. He presents research based evidence supporting the power of these four laws to help us change our habits.
The ‘Four Laws’
Here is a simple outline of each of the four laws to help you get started:
#1 Make It Obvious.
The most simple way to do this is to schedule a regular time to do it. Brendan Burchard illustrated this in one of his podcasts when he talked with a client who was planning to write a book. Brendan asked him when he was going to do it. The client hadn’t set aside any time to do it. Without scheduling a regular time to write, it is very unlikely the book will get written.
#2 Make It Attractive.
We are more likely do something when we believe it will be fun and we will be rewarded. James suggests bundling the new habit with something that is very rewarding. Another way to achieve the same effect is enrolling a buddy to hold you accountable. If this is someone you don’t want to let down, you will be motivated to not have to tell them you didn’t do it. And, when you tell them you did, you feel extra special.
#3 Make It Easy.
I encourage my clients to start any change with a small step. It is easy to get excited and attempt to bite off a big task. This usually leads to disappointment and failure. By starting small, for example 5 mins, we make it easy to do. From there we build the new habit and it is easy to extend the time slightly. James talks about arranging your environment to make it easy. One of my new desired habits is to work out more often. I have arranged my hand weights in my bedroom so I see them every day and make it easy for me to pick them up.
#4 Make It Satisfying.
I find it much easier to establish a new habit when I am receiving feedback. This helps me gauge my progress. When we’ve set a goal and we see we are making progress it is very motivating. My example of this is my Fitbit. It gives me instant feedback against my goals.
What are you doing to establish and solidify your new desired habits?