Fess up: got a stinking bad habit? We all have them. Usually we know exactly what we need to stop doing orstart doing, but that doesn’t make it any easier to go ahead and make it happen!
It’s Week 3 over at the New Image ReBoot Challenge, and this week our clients are doing some work around rewiring the goal sucking habits that are holding them back.
This process is so powerful that I am sharing a summary of it here with your today. I hope it helps you change some of that autopilot behaviour that keeps us stuck.
Useful habits and goal sucking habits
Useful habits are powerful allies in creating the lives we want and automate activities that bring us closer to our goals, while saving our higher functioning brain activity for more important stuff.
Our lives are full of little routines and habitual responses that take us through our day. We need these rituals to automate much of our behaviour so that we are not bogged down by indecision around trivial aspects of our day.
President Obama has famously said that one of his productivity tricks is to limit decision fatigue by not making decisions about what he eats or wears. By creating habits around the way we do things we free up valuable mental space for those things that really make a difference in our lives.
Goal sucking habits can feel like a huge weight on our shoulders. They are those rituals that have us speeding on autopilot towards behaviour that we would never consciously choose for ourselves. Goal sucking habits are a major culprit standing in our way of creating the lives we want.
Habits are for a lifetime
In the 90s, researchers from MIT found that when a certain behaviour or response is performed repeatedly, our brain eventually encodes a habit response. Once these pathways are created in our brain, they are always there. So if you feel like your goal sucking habits are impossible to break, stop beating yourself up, because you’re right.
However, it is possible to change your response by creating a new routine. It will take some effort, but by consciously replacing your old habit with a new one, your new, more useful habit can become your default habit.
Just as we have limited decision making resources, we are also on a tight willpower budget.
You cannot strongarm your bad habits into submission with willpower! Instead, we need to work our brains to develop alternatives.
Rewiring your habit loop
In this week’s ReBoot Challenge, I take our clients through a process of rewiring their habit loops, and I explain how I have rewired one of my own not-so-great habits. The concept of The Habit Loop comes from Charles Duhigg’s ground-breaking work on the science of habit in his book The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and in business.
Duhigg’s Habit Loop states, in essence, that each habit consists of a cue, a routine and a reward.
Identify the routine
Let’s take a look at my goal sucking habit that I would like to change. Use this as a guide to consider your own not so great habits.
My habit: Raiding the fridge and the pantry as soon as I get home from work, whether I’m hungry or not.
Cue: Walking through the front door after work (Hint: most cues will be related to location, time, emotional state, the people around you, or an immediately preceding action. My cue falls into the immediately preceding action category).
Routine: Walk straight to the kitchen and open the fridge or have a poke around the pantry for a snack that takes my fancy.
Reward: A feeling of comfort and relaxation. This habit started in my childhood when the first thing I would do after returning home from school was sitting down to eat. I now associate this action with relaxing and winding off for the day.
Keep the cue and the reward, but find a new routine
We need to identify these elements of our own habit loop and then come up with a new routine to respond to the same cue, which gives us the same reward.
Ask yourself: What other actions could you follow in response to your cue that will give you the same reward?
My cue is walking through the door after work. The reward I am seeking is a desire for the comforts of home and a feeling of relaxation. I need to make a new routine in response to my cue that can still satisfy my cravings.
NEW PLAN: When I walk through the door after work, I will take the dog to the park for a walk straight away. If Fred and Daphne are awake I will take them with me. Time spent with my family doing a local activity will give me those feelings of comfort and relaxation that I get from mindless eating, without the regret!
Now, over to you. What goal sucking habits do you need to change?