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Blog 2 of 4: The Zen of Changing Habits

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Habit Change Cheatsheet #1 - 10 or 29 !
The following is a compilation of tips to help you change a habit. Don’t be overwhelmed — always remember the simple steps above. The rest are different ways to help you become more successful in your habit change.

1. Do just one habit at a time. emoticon
Extremely important. Habit change is difficult, even with just one habit. If you do more than one habit at a time, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Keep it simple, allow yourself to focus, and give yourself the best chance for success. Btw, this is why New Year’s resolutions often fail — people try to tackle more than one change at a time.

2. Start small. emoticon
The smaller the better, because habit change is difficult, and trying to take on too much is a recipe for disaster. Want to exercise? Start with just 5-10 minutes. Want to wake up earlier? Try just 10 minutes earlier for now. Or consider half habits. emoticon

3. Do a 30-day Challenge. In my experience, emoticonor maybe emoticon
it takes about 30 days to change a habit, if you’re focused and consistent. This is a round number and will vary from person to person and habit to habit. Often you’ll read a magical “21 days” to change a habit, but this is a myth with no evidence. Seriously — try to find the evidence from a scientific study for this. A more recent study shows that 66 emoticondays is a better number (read more). But 30 days is a good number to get you started. Your challenge: stick with a habit every day for 30 days, and post emoticon your daily progress updates to a forum.

4. Write it down. emoticon
Just saying you’re going to change the habit is not enough of a commitment. You need to actually write it down, on paper. Write what habit you’re going to change.

5. Make a plan. emoticon
While you’re writing, also write down a plan. This will ensure you’re really prepared. The plan should include your reasons (motivations) for changing, obstacles, triggers, support buddies, and other ways you’re going to make this a success. More on each of these below.

6. Know your motivations, and be sure they’re strong. Write them down in your plan. emoticon You have to be very clear why you’re doing this, and the benefits of doing it need to be clear in your head. If you’re just doing it for vanity, while that can be a good motivator, it’s not usually enough. We need something stronger. For me(author of this article), I quit smoking for my wife and kids. I made a promise to them. I knew if I didn’t smoke, not only would they be without a husband and father, but they’d be more likely to smoke themselves (my wife was a smoker and quit with me).

7. Don’t start right away. In your plan, write down a start date. emoticon
Maybe a week or two from the date you start writing out the plan. When you start right away (like today), you are not giving the plan the seriousness it deserves. When you have a “Quit Date” or “Start Date”, it gives that date an air of significance. Tell everyone about your quit date (or start date). Put it up on your wall or computer desktop. emoticon
Make this a Big Day. It builds up anticipation and excitement, and helps you to prepare.

8. Write down all your obstacles. emoticon
If you’ve tried this habit change before (odds are you have), you’ve likely failed. Reflect on those failures, and figure out what stopped you from succeeding. Write down every obstacle that’s happened to you, and others that are likely to happen. Then write down how you plan to overcome them.
emoticonThat’s the key: write down your solution before the obstacles arrive, so you’re prepared.

9. Identify your triggers.
What situations trigger your current habit? For the smoking habit, for example, triggers might include waking in the morning, having coffee, drinking alcohol, stressful meetings, going out with friends, driving, etc. Most habits have multiple triggers. Identify all of them and write them in your plan. emoticon

10. For every single trigger, identify a positive habit you’re going to do instead. emoticon

When you first wake in the morning, instead of smoking, what will you do? What about when you get stressed? When you go out with friends? Some positive habits could include: exercise, meditation, deep breathing, organizing, decluttering, and more.

“Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.” - Mark Twain

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