The Road to Lasting Habits.

It is the journey, not the destination that matters (Photo by Brendan Steeves on Unsplash)

Behavior change is hard. It is easy to pick a new habit but cumbersome to convert it into a lasting one. Various studies have come up with different figures but at least 8 times out of 10, you are more likely to fall back into your old habits and patterns than you are to stick with new behavior. At the same time, 40% of our everyday actions are habitual — this means your productivity, efficiency, and quality of life are dependent upon habits. The question arises when we know habits are important, we try to change habits very frequently (or at least every New Year) then why do we not succeed?Why is changing difficult? Why do new year resolutions fail? Why is it not possible to break away from old cycles and habits into healthier ones? Where does one find the required motivation to stick to new habits?

The answers are elusive and the questions are big. Coming forward with a comprehensive explanation to “why do our resolves fail?” can be tricky. But there is no denying people shed their past, they rebuild their lives. Undoubtedly, good habits go a long way in building our best lives. Once we know that habits are intangible things yet open to change it is our responsibility to remake them. If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you have to develop the habit in little matters, and in order not to fail you have to avoid some mistakes.

Here are some common mistakes that cause new habits to fail and solutions for the same:

Mistake #1: Trying to “Turn the Tables” Immediately

Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to rush into a habit quickly. (Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash)

Don’t try to turn the tables against your current way of living at once by rushing into new habits, this will overwhelm you. Humans rely on consistency and familiarity to feel secure. Changing too much at once might drain you psychologically. This will tempt you to revert to your old lifestyle quickly.“A habit cannot be tossed out the window; it must be coaxed down the stairs a step at a time.” — Mark Twain

Solution: Plan out the new habit.

When trying to walk down a new path, be sure you are prepared. Do not jump into a new behavior all at once because that will cause discomfort. The sure thing is any change will push you out of your comfort zone but you can plan this discomfort. By planning out the habit. If you want to quit your unhealthy eating habits — do not flush out your entire indulgence all at once. Do so in a phased and planned manner. A kneejerk reaction will only cause the action of eating junk food to stop temporarily. And very soon you will find yourself in the drive-through. Thus, focus on eliminating the triggers and environments that cause you to eat unhealthily and phase out the change over a period of time.

Also, Build New environments for New Habits

It is seen that alcoholics and addicts rely heavily on recovery support groups to get clean. This is to stimulate new environments that foster their new commitment to sobriety. Old habits rest on old triggers, environments, and people — to overcome the old habit one must build alternate environments while reducing reliance on the previous ones.

Do Not Fear Failure as End

The urgency in moving towards good lasting habits is good, sometimes. However, this urgency should not be borne out of the fear of failure as a fatal setback. As far as changing habits are concerned — failure is not final and success is not final. One has to live the process over and over again every day. One can’t say that I had a habit for three months. But this does not mean you cannot start afresh. The only way to be able to avoid this mistake is to realize that adrenaline pumped change will not sail through far enough to be called a habit. So the focus is not on changing quickly but to make the change last.

Mistake #2: Not being Definitive about the Change

Clarity is Important (Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash)

You cannot be vague about the change you want to bring in, “I want to be fit” or “I want to be more well-read” won’t work. You will end up doing a 1-hour workout on the first day and by the third day, it will be fifteen minutes. If you pick up vague goals, actions are bound to be unplanned and you will find it difficult to stick to them.It is the lack of clarity that creates frustration and chaos.

The problem is your present habits are well defined and successfully ingrained into your lives. To be able to replace them, you require a clarity that rivals the solidity of your existing behavior.

Solution: Be definitive to the extent of one verb i.e. one action.

What you should look for in the formative days of a habit is consistency. You need to build that habit as normalcy in your life. To achieve this you need definitive actions — “I will read a page every day” or “I will start cycling on weekends” When you define your action, you define your intensity, you define your end goal — when you have clarity change becomes easier.Awareness precedes Change.

Also, Write Down your Intended Habit

When you write down what you intend to accomplish, it will state effectively what you want to replace. The writing down will add clarity and purpose. Clarity and awareness will precede any conscious change in your life.

This method streamlines your energy and enthusiasm to change to one point. It enables greater dedication to the process.

Mistake #3: Succumbing to Demonic Distractions

Devil = Distraction (Photo by Samuele Giglio on Unsplash)

Any embryonic habit can fall prey to the demon i.e. distractions. This is usually seen when a new habit starts yielding results. Whenever we see a dividend from a new habit we get complacent. Complacency makes us ignore distractions or indulgences that can make us fall back in the pit of old habits.

For example, You start going to the gym — you are able to stick to the new habit for three months. You start seeing changes in your activity levels, productivity, and health. At this juncture, you see you are able to work more, play harder, and enjoy yourself. This eventually causes you to fall into distractions like working on the additional project by skipping the gym hour or partying too late over your success to get up early for exercise the next day.An occasional detour or break is allowed. Yet it can be a slippery slope if you start succumbing to distractions that usually lead you to break a habit that is working for you.

Solution: Micromanage Your Distractions

Keep a very close watch. The health of your productive habits is of primary importance to you, and while you should let down your hair once in a while — do ensure that the result is not rubbing you the wrong way afterward.

Identify your distractions-people, events, circumstances, surrounding, etc that cause you to revert to old habits or disrupt your new habits. Try to avoid and eliminate such distractions or micromanage them with caution.

Habit is More Dependable than Inspiration

Habit is a cable and we weave a thread each day. The longer your habit, the stronger the cable. You can wait for something to strike… um… inspiration, motivation, ambition et cetera to get up on your feet. You can lull around, wait for the last minute. You can deliberately look for distractions and short-sighted enjoyment. Or you can take control because there is pleasure in living life on your own terms, there is satisfaction in controlling your life.

If you want to live up to your potential — a habit is more reliable than innate inspiration, it will sustain you irrespective of inspiration.

The Road to Lasting Habits. was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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