The most important work I think I do with my clients is helping them stop negative habits and create positive ones (they think it is providing them with nutrition and exercise plans, but through doing that I get them to change their habits, shhh don't tell them).
Most people would agree, stopping a negative habit and replacing it with a positive habit will greatly help them achieve their goals. If only it was that easy.
Changing habits is not an easy thing to do. Habits can be ingrained in us for years, and we feel they make us who we are, but if what you are doing is not giving you the results you want, then you need to change what you are doing.
And there is the problem. Change is the hard bit. Change means you have to try something different. Trying something different is more than likely going to move you out of your comfort zone. Being out of your comfort zone, is well, uncomfortable. So who likes being uncomfortable?
The main reason most people find it hard to change habits, is that it will be uncomfortable.
Being uncomfortable though has been something you have experienced throughout your life. Whatever you have got good at has to have been learnt (no one is born with god-given talent), so you must of gone through some level of discomfort.
So when attempting to change a negative habit to a positive one, accept that discomfort is part of the process, without it, you can't be changing. Which is fine if you don't want to change, but necessary if you do.
To help you through the process, here a three steps you can apply when changing a habit;
1. Identify Your Trigger
Habits always happen due to a trigger. For example, a certain eating nutrition habit could be triggered by other people. If you always meet a friend at the local cafe. This will trigger you have a coffee or two. But if you are trying to reduce your caffeine intake, meeting your friend at the cafe won't help, but as this is part of spending time with your friend, by giving up coffee might lead to spending time with your friend.
2. Notice The Routine
So using the last example, you arrange a time to meet your friend at the same cafe, you walk into the cafe and straight away smell the wonderful smell of coffee, you go to the counter and order the same drink you always order (plus your friends, because that is what friends do), sit down at your favourite table and immerse yourself in what your friend has to say.
Before you know it, you are on your second cup of coffee. Bugger it.
3. There Is Always A Reward
We only follow habits because we are rewarded with something we like. We would never do things concisely or subconsciously if what we received wasn't nice.
So by having a coffee with your friend, means you get to spend time with someone you like and are interested in. This leads to a feeling of satisfaction and happiness. Who the hell wouldn't want that.
So now we know, habits start with a trigger, follow a set routine and provide us with a positive reward. But if the habit in the long-term leads to achieving something we don't want, then the habit has to change.
So lets take look at how we can change the above habit to one we want;
1. Change The Trigger
Start by asking your friend if you can meet them where coffee isn't served. This can lead to discomfort, as you don't want to award, as your friend might really like the cafe. Tell them you are trying to reduce your caffeine intake for better health, by them understanding why, they will want to help (if not, they don't care and therefore....).
2. Change The Routine
By changing the trigger, the routine changes to some extent. You are still meeting with your friend, just in a different place. Discomfort comes from trying out a new place, trying to find a new favourite table, being in unfamiliar surroundings. But so was the first time you entered your favourite cafe.
3. You Still Receive Your Reward
Yep, no coffee but meeting your friend still gives you satisfaction and happiness. And there is the comfort level back.
It's that easy. Identify the trigger, notice the routine and get rewarded. You can apply this to any habit, but only if you truly want to change that habit, otherwise you can go through life on autopilot and not achieving the results you want.
Chris Deavin, myHealthCoach