I was all fired up when I came across Gretchen Rubin's book "Better Than Before." It was super well written and went into a huge amount of details around habits. I highly recommend it and this blog has been inspired by it.
I've always been a routine girl, and while I like variety, habits make me feel secure and comfortable, even if I decide to break them once in a while. The reason why I love habits is because they take all the heat out of decision making. If something is a habit, it’s natural and effortless and something you just do automatically....eventually.... you can literally "decide not to decide." But as Gretchen Rubin says “It’s hard to make things easy at first”
What habits do you want to cultivate?
Whatever it is, you might find these tips helpful....
TIP 1 - Understand Yourself
In order to decide what habits you want to cultivate you first have to get to understand how you tick and respond to certain situations and expectations. It’s really all about asking yourself questions. Take Gretchen's Quiz to find out if you're an: Obliger, Upholder, Questioner or Rebel. Other questions she asks you to consider are: are you an over buyer or an under buyer? Do you get anxious if there’s no food in the fridge or if the fridge is packed? Are you a starter or a finisher? If something is forbidden, do you want it less or more? For me abstinence is more powerful than moderation because it helps me to get it out of my mind altogether. If I’ve become addicted to a person for example (like a celebrity or if I fancy someone who’s off limits or I know isn’t good for me) it’s better to go cold turkey and not have them in my life, not look at their socials and just not get involved. If I have a quick look at what they’re up to one lonely evening, I get all fired up again and that longing process starts again and before you know it I've broken my own rules. It’s the same with things like chocolate, spending money or too much pornography. That’s not to say pleasure isn’t important but it’s the kind of pleasure you choose…. go easy on the dopamine!
Here's another thing, what do you prioritise in your daily routine? Whatever you prioritise equates to what you most value. We have the most amount of cognitive fuel at the start of the day so utilise it. Choose something that requires a lot of mental energy at the start of the day, get it done and you’ll feel amazing, proud of yourself and eager to do the next thing. I used to do my washing and housework at the begin of the day because I thought I couldn’t sit down to work unless it was all done and especially if I had clients at home. But that made me think, I’m putting housework over and above meditation, exercise, preparing food and money making activities. So my housework now waits until the end of the day when my cognitive fuel has run out. I’ve gotten much better at allowing my space to be slightly messy while I focus on what really matters to me. I now do the things I don’t want to do at the beginning of the day which makes me feel super virtuous.
TIP 2 - Link Pleasure to The New Habit
Once you’ve decided what habits you want to master, you have to link pleasure to the cultivation of the new habit and pain to staying in the old habit. Your mind always wants to move you towards what is it thinks is pleasurable and what it thinks is painful. It’s always trying to protect you but it’s YOUR job to tell a different story to make different links. And your imagination is the most powerful part of you so if, for example, you want to cultivate the habit of drinking more water but you find it boring and difficult you can 1) imagine it tasting like strawberries. 2) keep on imagining the benefits… more freedom of movement, less aches and pains, more mental clarity. The more you link pleasure to it, the more familiar your habit will become. The mind LOVES what is familiar and hates what is unfamiliar so it will keep on moving you towards the familiar and eventually it will be automatic. Link pleasure to it by using your imagination until it eventually becomes real. Once the new habit is formed and you are feeling the benefits, you will want to keep doing it unless there's some hardy programming in your sub concious mind that says 'I'm not enough" "I don't deserve this." If so, let's chat about hypnotherapy.
TIP 3 - Plan to Fail and Plan To Recover.
In what circumstance or situation are you most likely to ‘fail’? For example breaking a ‘no carb’ rule when eating out Saying ‘fuck it’ to a glass of wine with friends? Biting your nails under stress? What are you going to say to yourself or others or what are you going to do to prevent a fail? Are you just going to make your choice rather than salivating over the options that you’re ‘not allowed’? Can your abstinence be an inspiration to others who will give you credibility and validation? Can you distract yourself by singing, dancing or telling a joke? Write out what you’ll say and how you’ll behave in these tricky situations when you might come across peer pressure, advertising pressure or your own “I’m not enough” “I can’t do this” programming.
When it comes to creating good habits, don’t reward yourself with something that will undermine a good habit. Don’t reward a hard days work with a splif or a bottle of wine…. the fact you’ve got through the day, done your best, and mastered yourself should be reward enough. The more you practice this level of gratitude, self compassion and acceptance the more appealing this will feel to you. If you’re addicted to dopamine hits, this won’t feel that exciting.
Which brings me to my next point…. (for those of you who don't like tough love, look away now)
There’s a period of time between starting the habit and before the habit becomes automatic that's a bit of a pain in the neck. To get over this, stop being 'entitled' and make friends with suffering! Before you know it, you'll have it down and will have earn't tons of respect from others.
If you're interested in how I can help you with making the process of habit formation easier using the power of RTT and coaching combined, please don't hesitate to contact me.