Creating Sticky Habits

When we look at our lives, as if from a great height (always easier if you are travelling by plane strangely enough) we sometimes see patterns of behavior that we would like to change.  After every long haul flight I do, I arrive home with a renewed sense of purpose and usually a bit of a plan for change!   Whether these changes occur or not relates directly to how I go about putting the plan into action and how engrained the old way of doing things is.  Life is made up essentially of things we choose to do and things that happen to us that we have no control over.  If we put our energy into making the former reflect our values, our desires and our ambitions, instead of worrying about the things we can’t change, it would be better use of our time.  Agreed?  So how do we create habits that stick?

Firstly, how long it takes to create a new habit depends entirely on the nature of the behavior. 21 days has been thrown around but that is really just an arbitrary figure.  Some habits are complex and are made up of any factors, things we do, things we think and situations we are in.  A good thing to keep in mind is the very reason for changing the habit.  Never lose sight of “why” you wish to change and what the positive outcomes could be.  Research has shown that this kind of “big dreaming” can help make the new behaviour stick.

At the other end of the scale is the step by step approach.  Depending on how big the change is, start very small with a day by day “quota” of small steps. This removes the feeling of overwhelm and gives us chance to succeed.  Think big, act small isn’t a bad way of looking at it.  

Avoiding throwing in the towel – many times when we are struggling to create  new routine or way of being in the world, we are tempted to simply give up at the first sign of a frustration.  The way round this is to think ahead to what precedes that feeling and come up with a simple action to make the change as structured as possible and eliminate the opportunity for too many options!  Choice is good, too much choice leads to confusion.  Eg “When I come home from work I will go out for a walk for 30 minutes” is better than when I come home from work I will try and do something active”.  

One final warning.  We want our lives to be full of productive, satisfying routines that are automatic and do not require too many decisions.   But we need to be flexible so that we don’t turn into robots who find change impossible because we are used to doing things a certain way!  

Click here to read more – “The Science of Building Good Habits” Gregory Ciotti,