“Plant a tiny seed in the right spot, and it will grow without coaxing.”
Dr. BJ Fogg
If you’re like most people , you have at least one bad habit that drives you mad.
If you’re a parent it gets worse — you’re harming not just you, but your family too.
We all know kids imitate everything.
If you have kids, I bet they’ve embarrassed you at least once or twice.
Have you ever been talking to someone, when your child blurts out something like “my mum thinks your house is ugly!”
You’re mortified, turn bright red and apologize. Your kid looks confused, and insists: “But you did say that!”
Kids are like sponges.They’re also transparent.
Whatever you do, say, wear, or consume looks cool through their impressionable little eyes.
Do you ever want your child to be plagued with a chronic cough from smoking?
How about struggling to walk up a staircase because they weigh more than they should?
That’s almost inevitable if you, their primary role model, are a smoker or an unhealthy eater.
Even if you don’t have kids, I’m guessing you hate your bad habits… otherwise you wouldn’t call them “bad habits.”
Why You Haven’t Succeeded in Quitting
Have you tried to stop biting your nails, being late, smoking … only to do it again, and then feel even worse than before?
First off, forget about the times you tried to quit and failed — it’s ok. We’ve all been there.
When trying to kick a bad habit, most people aim too high.
They say “I’m never drinking again!” or “I’m going to lose 30 pounds in 60 days!”
Doable, yes, but not great a great plan for long term success.
There’s a big difference between a goal and a lifestyle change.
If you’re trying to lose weight in a specific period of time (maybe for a wedding, school reunion, or some other big event), you may have enough motivation to reach the finish line.
If you’re thinking about fitting into that dress in a couple weeks, that may be enough to keep you away from the cupcakes and ginger nuts.
Maybe you do go to the gym every day, and eat nothing but broccolli and chicken…
But what happens after the event, when you’re totally burned out?
There’s a good chance you’ll fall into your old patterns, and gain back what you lost.
The best way to get to your goals (without killing yourself, or giving up), is to focus on your habits, and start small.
And let’s face it:
Do you REALLY want to “never eat a cupcake again” OR do you actually want to be a fit person?
The second one, works for me
What IS a Habit, Really?
At a neurological level, you have a few different areas involved in decision making. Your prefrontal cortex (the logical, thinking part) isn’t required all the time. Instead, you’ve got an area called the “basal ganglia,” which operates on autopilot. Two impulses originate there — let’s call them “Stop” and “Go.”
Stop is the angel on one shoulder, cheering for your willpower.
Go is the devil on the other. He keeps life fun, fresh, and exciting.
Stop is in control by default. You’re already in the habit of NOT doing something.
To put Go in charge, you have to feel a reward when he makes a choice.
Usually, this happens with a release of dopamine.
Maybe you eat too much junk food. Sugar is one of the most common ways to get your dopamine fix.
Or perhaps you use a harsh tone of voice when you’re stressed. People don’t want to deal with it, so they just give you what you want. Your subconscious reads that as:
Rudeness -> goal attainment -> dopamine for reaching a goal.
At some level, you’re getting a positive result.
The key to breaking bad habits is to disrupt the cycle, then consciously rebuild a new one.
If your habits include watching telly for 30 hours a week, it’s going to take more than “motivation” to turn that around.
All sorts of things deplete your willpower throughout the day.
When you finally get to your “free time,” there’s probably not much left.
You don’t want to rely on motivation to push you away from bad behavior and towards good activities.
That’s why people keep doing things that hurt them in the long run.
You were going to go to the gym every day this week, but you’re sooooo tired. Work, kids, hungry, wine….
Same S***, Different Day …..same thing.
You just don’t have the energy to get dressed, put on your trainers, drive to the MDF, actually do the exercises, then drive home, shower….
You’ll go this weekend.
Then you don’t.
You’ll go on Monday.
Then a month passes, and you realize you didn’t hit your goal.
What went wrong?
You were asking too much of yourself, and you weren’t building habits.
Each day, you had to look for the motivation again to go through the whole ordeal of hitting the gym.
Three separate factors combine to result in a behaviour:
- Motivation — you need a reason to do it.
- Ability — how easily can it be done?
- Trigger — something that happens to spur you into action.
Now, you need to attach action to the trigger. What makes a good trigger? Something you’re already in the habit of doing.
Here are some examples:
- Think of one thing you’re grateful for every time you brush your teeth.
- Kiss your partner for a full ten seconds every time you walk in the door.
- Do two squats every time you check your email.
But how do you get the big change you want without pouring out sweat at the gym?????
Focus on BEING That Person.
Imagine the person you want to be, then identify with her as you build your new habits.
Do you think a fit person never eats a cupcake???
Or do you think she treats herself sometimes?
She probably enjoys that cupcake…..
She doesn’t feel guilty, either. She just runs an extra 1/2 mile or skips carbs later.
If you want to stop being rude when you’re tired and hungry, decide “I AM the type of person who is in control of her emotions.”
Then, commit to a new tiny habit: whenever you start to feel crabby, you WILL go into the bathroom and smile at yourself in the mirror for 2 minutes.
After a while, you probably won’t even have to. You’ll be in the habit of turning off your negativity.
Building great habits that stick is a long term game.
It may seem totally silly to start out so small.
But — “hitting snooze only once” is a much easier to maintain and build on, than deciding to wake up at 6am everyday.
Master the tiny habit, and you can form bigger habits.
Not only does this make you more likely to succeed, but it sets a good example.
If you have children, they’re picking up on your attitudes, behaviors, and results.
Instead of demonstrating negativity (like guilt, or shame, or giving up), you can be consistent, positive, and patient.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Feel free to share this with your bestie and let me know what habits you are going to focus on building.
Work with me >>>