How To Move From Old Habits To New Habits
What habit have you struggled to cultivate?
Or one you’ve battled to put off?
Maybe you want to exercise daily, wake up earlier, read a chapter before going to bed, always write your plans for the next day, eat more healthy foods, worry less, pray more, and other things you desire to add or delete from your habit box.
Have you tried to do it but failed?
You dragged yourself to do it on day one and day two… but by day four, you forgot. Or just got tired!
Habits aren’t things you toy with, because, like Jack Canfield said, “your habits determine your future.”
A habit is something that you do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing that you are doing it.
It is a behaviour that has been repeated enough times to become automatic. They are mental shortcuts learned from experience.
Think of something you do without a second thought. Like checking your WhatsApp messages once you pick up your phone.
Or like a friend who I saw drive into a supermarket on her way back from work, then immediately turned and drove off. Guess what she said when we talked about it the next time we met: “I’ve got used to driving into the supermarket on my way back that I didn’t even know when I swerved in that direction.”
By coming repeatedly to the supermarket on her way back, she created a pathway in her mind. That she didn’t even need to think before acting.
Habits are like atoms of our lives. Each one is a fundamental unit that contributes to your overall improvement. At first, these tiny routines seem insignificant, but soon they build upon each other and fuel bigger wins that multiply to a degree that far outweighs the cost of initial investment. (James Clear)
Changing Your Habits
Anyone who has tried changing a habit knows that it is no “bread and tea.”
You meet with failures and frustrations and fights.
And it’s worse if you approach changing habits the wrong way.
Just like any other thing you do – cooking, playing an instrument, handling a project – if you have a not-so-good system for doing it, you miss your desired results.
In the book, Atomic Habits, the author shares two reasons changing a habit is challenging:
- We try to change the wrong thing
- We try to change our habits in the wrong way
Let’s look at the three areas of behaviour change: a change in outcomes, a change in your process, or a change in your identity.
Your outcomes are based on changing the results, such as your losing weight, reading a book monthly, learning a skill. The process is the implementation steps you take, for example, exercising daily and reading one chapter of a book one hour before bedtime. Your identity is concerned with your beliefs and inner conversations.
If you want to build a lasting habit, go from a change in your identity (inner beliefs and self -image) to a change in your system (activities), and than you’ll see a change in your outcomes.
Moving from Old To New Habits
We’ve seen what habits are, why you need to build good habits, and what’s been keeping you from replacing old with new habits.
Now here is a guide that will help you make this switch from old to new habits.
- Highlight the old habit you want to drop, and the new one to cultivate: This is where to start. For example, “I aimlessly scroll through social media for two hours before I sleep off – the habit to stop. I want to read – the habit to cultivate.
Write them down. You may have several of them. To avoid overwhelm, and then ending up changing none of the habits at all, pick one to work on.
Let’s say reading a book instead of scrolling through Instagram before bedtime. FOCUS on one. And when your brain registers it, pick another one and work on it.
- Arouse a desire to experience the life this change in habit will bring you: Motivation alone can’t keep you through the journey of habit change. It can help you start, but a strong desire to achieve something… something that becomes part of your identity, is what will keep you through the rough days of building a new habit.
Anyone can decide to write one day, and the next, and maybe five days later. But for someone who desires to become a writer, an author, a best-selling author, that change of identity you’re building within will fuel you to stick to your seat, grab your pen and keep spilling the words.
- Build a process to repeat the desired habit: Like the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you’ve planned to fail. This applies to your habit-building journey.
Plan how to repeat the desired action. Every day. It’s mostly recommended you do it for 21 consecutive days. Have a time and a place to work on it.
You want to become a writer—you can plan to write by 6:00–7:00 am every day in your study room.
You want to be healthy and fit–set a reminder to jug round your estate by 5:30 am every day.
You want to become a reader, and knowledgeable – you can plan reading by 9:00 – 10:00 pm on a chair in your bedroom every night.
These are just examples. You know the best time and place available. Pick it and work with it.
Make the process attractive, easy (to remember and act on) and rewarding.
Stick to your process.
Or if it’s not very effective, check out others who have achieved what you’re working towards and learn from the system/process they had in place.
You might miss one day. Yes. But don’t throw up your hands in defeat. Pick it up the next day and start all over.
At first, the impact of these tiny daily changes might look insignificant.
You’ve not perfected playing the keyboard… or what have you. But stay put. That 1% action will compound to something huge down the line.
Like Warren Buffet said, “Chains of habits are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”
This applies to both good and bad habits.
Keep building the chains on good habits. And quickly cut off the chains of bad habits.
You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. So, always stay close to God. He supplies the grace to do even the most challenging things.
We first make our habits, and than our habits make us.