Creating Powerful Habits
17th Jun, 2019
Creating Powerful Habits
People talk about creating powerful habits all the time. But what is a powerful habit? One needs to understand what a habit is, how it is formed, what can it do, etc. Creating powerful habits defines a change in the person's behaviors and helps them achieve the change they really want.
What is a Habit?
Some people wake up without an alarm, some people wake up sharp but with an alarm, some people need a bed coffee, some need to brush first to have a coffee, and so on and so forth. These are individual behaviors that are done recursively. People take a break during work all the time, but if you observe they have a pattern. They go to their friend's places, pick them up and go for a tea break. When they come back from tea, they go to the restroom, then a sip of water from the pantry, and then back to seats. This is just a routine of a person. These are habits and these happen subconsciously.
Habit Building - How habits are formed?
Since your habits become part of your subconscious, one will never know how habits control the majority of their life. Habits are both good and bad. Good ones help you with your day-to-day activities and bad ones stop you from achieving things you need. It is not like one day people wake up and found that they have a habit. Habits are formed with the things you do every day. It also defines your behavior.
Once a person starts doing things on a regular basis it becomes a habit. People call certain things like muscle memory because it becomes automatic. The habitual pattern gets imprinted on the memory and it happens without the understanding of your conscious mind. Your everyday behavior is controlled by your habit. A short-tempered, a spendthrift, an over-thinker, a chain smoker, an alcoholic, a workaholic, etc are all because of habit.
A person who smokes one cigarette does not become a chain smoker immediately. It takes repetition to do the same action over and over again. As per NLP, "Behind every action, there is a positive intention". When a person does something and they find it beneficial for them, they keep doing it and fortunately or unfortunately it becomes a habit.
How to change a bad habit?
Let us understand what a bad habit is first. There is no good or bad as it is all subjective. So, what is a bad habit? A bad habit is one that creates unwanted or unacceptable behavior for oneself. One needs to have self-awareness about their behavior, so it gets easier to change them. Sooner the realization, the easier the change. Some of the bad habits that people do are biting their lips, biting their nails, smoking, procrastinating, and so on.
One also needs to understand that in order to change a habit, it is wiser to identify a new habit and replace it with the old habit. I was a chain smoker and I realized that I need to quit smoking. I have quit smoking before and so I know what it takes for me to come back. Earlier, I quit smoking multiple times and haven't replaced my old habit with any new habit. So, I have always started back to smoking and found solace in it.
Find a new habit that you want to inculcate. In my case, I chose to hit the gym and start my workout routine which was long pending. I was a college weight lifter and an athlete who did 100 meters and 200 meters sprints. In order to start my workout and sustain it, I need to quit smoking.
In my previous blog on anxiety, I discussed why it is necessary to focus on what you want as an outcome. So, I used my workout routine to push me to stop smoking. You may think that I talk like quitting is an easier task. I coach myself on things that I usually want to experiment with, and I help people with what I have learned myself. It always helps in my coaching. It isn’t easy by looking at the surface level, but it will be easy if you do it the right way.
Finding and deciding how to stop bad habits and addictions
- Ask yourself what are the things that are associated with your addiction or habit and list them down. For a smoker, the association of smoking could be temporary elimination of stress and maybe showing off, or could be the feel-good factor because of the pleasurable sensations. Note down the association related to pleasure.
- Ask yourself again about the associations to quitting the habit. For a smoker, quitting could be associated with the pain of not having a smoke or the pain of not getting a pleasurable feeling. Note down the associations related to the pain.
- You are going to change the associations now. Identify the pain of continuing your habit. For a smoker, identifying videos of cancer patients because of smoking, watching them suffer to play a game or climb a staircase, noticing how they smell, calculating the money spent on smoking, hospital expenses because of ill health, diseases associated with smoking & lungs, etc. Comparatively, the amount of money spent on smoking is huge when you are a chain smoker. It could definitely be used as a pain. Feel the pain literally by considering all these. Use your emotional side of the brain for this and not the logical side. In my case, I felt the pain of being unable to work out which I badly wanted to do.
- Time to associate pleasure to quitting old habits. Find things that you can associate with the habit, but it is more pleasurable when you quit your habit. For a smoker, the pleasure of quitting smoking is healthy lungs, easy breathing, time saved by not smoking, money saved by not smoking, the ability to run a marathon, the ability to use stairs without wearing, and so on. In my case, it’s the pleasure of lifting weights and feeling energetic inside the gym.
- We have seen the primary payoffs on point #1. Now, we need to identify the secondary payoffs. These secondary payoffs are some form of benefits that you get from your current behavior. For a smoker, this could be the sensation of relaxation. The relaxation though comes from nicotine, it also comes from the deep breathing pattern of the smoker during smoking. Try deep breathing without a cigarette in your mouth, you will still feel relaxed. You need to always find an alternative to satisfy the same sensation but in a different way. In my case, I get a deep breath and relax in the gym whenever I lift weights. It satisfies deep breathing, relaxes me, and as well as keeps me engaged in what I want to do.
- Remember that it could be any of the habits that you want to change and not just smoking. Smoking was taken as an example as it is one of the habits most people call addiction and could not call quits.
How to stop a bad habit permanently?
Remember that it’s not the outside world, external forces, or people who are responsible for your habitual change. It's you, your approach, and your attitude toward getting it done. The majority of the time, people expect faster results and they give up when the change they expect doesn't happen instantly. Always keep in mind that perseverance is needed in changing something which your subconscious has picked up already. You need to constantly and consciously do things over and over again so that it becomes a habit. Great people build new habits to achieve different results. Your old habits could actually get you only so far.
Focus on the outcome, and associate pain and pleasure with your outcomes. The more you associate the more it becomes desirable. Creating powerful habits does not happen overnight. It takes a good amount of perseverance, attitude, hard work, and greater willpower. Create your powerful habit for the goals/outcomes you have always desired for.
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