People are creatures of habit. How could we not be? Otherwise the myriad decisions required each day would overwhelm us. It is our routines that free our energy. Yet it is vital that our habits reinforce our best self, empower our dreams, and support our goals.
How to turn each desired behavior into a habit? William James, the renowned father of modern psychology, called for us to “make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy by ‘daily strokes of effort’.” In other words, habits are created via repetition.
So how to get ourselves to do the repetition in the first place? Will power? Will power only goes so far. Will power is like a muscle: over use it and it becomes tired and weak. Yes, over time your willpower muscle will grow stronger with proper use but in the short run, willpower can definitely be depleted.
There are at least 8 keys to consciously forming empowering habits:
– Make it EASY to do the thing you WANT to do, HARD to do the things you DON’T want to do. Notice your triggers and behavioral cues and use them to your advantage.
– Harness your Want Power more than your Will Power: Focus on the BENEFITS of your new habit, make the benefits real in your mind, visualize them as already yours. Create a burning desire in your brain.
– Accentuate the Positive: Do NOT diet or focus on losing weight. Instead, focus on creating new, permanent healthy eating habits and the joy and the feeling of accomplishment that comes of having a flatter stomach.
– Start small, build on your success. Accept setbacks as normal, smile, laugh, get up, continue. No big deal. Sounds like life to me! Keep calm and carry on.
– Build a support network of like-minded people‹cheerleaders, coaches, and allies. New behaviors sometimes require new friends.
– Set written goals, create concrete action plans with staggered targets. Implement, observe, adapt, and correct, then repeat.
– Faithfully keep a journal.
– Regularly read inspirational, uplifting literature, even if only a few pages at a time. Or listen to CDs in your car. Like your body, your mind becomes what you feed it.
“A tendency to act only becomes effectively engrained in us in proportion to the uninterrupted frequency with which the actions actually occur & the brain ‘grows’ to their use.” — William James, “Psychology: Briefer Course,” 1892
“Habits are like financial capital‹forming one today is an investment that will automatically give out returns for years to come.” — Shawn Achor, “The Happiness Advantage, The Seven Principles that Fuel Success and Performance at Work”