You are the result of your habits. Your life is the product of the ideas, actions and decisions you have made over the last few years, so if you do not feel comfortable with your current situation, a change of habits is what you need to implement.
Personally, I believe that many people spend their time looking for magic formulas to change their lives, believing that others are doing something that they are not, which is why they are living better than them.
The truth is that there are no tricks, formulas or secret methods to change your life, there are only habits, and these are the ones you need to change.
The power of habits does not depend on your willpower:
How many times have you promised yourself, in your list of New Year’s resolutions, that this time you are going to change, that you are going to quit smoking, start doing more sports, or stop eating so much junk food?
This promise to change habits is more common than you imagine, as is its breach. And the reason why this happens is that willpower is not enough, to really bring about change, you need to understand how habits work.
So, What is the recipe for lasting change? The objective of this article is to explain how to achieve a change in habits, no matter what it is, by explaining how it works.
For this, I will take as a basis the teachings of the book The power of habitswritten by Charles Duhigg.
Scheme for a change of habits:
After years of research, interviews and countless hours of work, Duhigg managed to structure the four-step scheme to achieve a change of habits and lifestyle.
If you want to learn more about the case studies, research and models used to test his scheme, I invite you to read his book, which is loaded with useful information to understand how your bad habits work and how you can change them.
To begin, we share with you the outline of steps to achieve a change of habits:
1. Identify the routine
2. Experiment with rewards
3. Isolate the signal
4. Have a plan
1. Identify the routine:
After years of work, MIT researchers found that the essence of every habit, no matter what it is, is made up of three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward.
In order to understand your habits, you need to identify each of these parts. Once you do, you have the tools available to change your old habits for better ones.
You have the habit of every afternoon, get up from your desk, go to the kitchen and make a coffee while you talk with your colleagues.
You know that you don’t like coffee in excessive quantities, you promise yourself that tomorrow you will change, but again the next day you are waiting by the coffee pot smelling that irresistible aroma.
You want to change, but you don’t know how to control that desire for coffee you have.
The first step you must take to make a change in habits is to identify the routine. It doesn’t matter what the habit is; give up cigarettes, junk food, or in the example, get up in the afternoon from your job, go to the kitchen, prepare a coffee and talk to your colleagues.
To help identify and understand your routine, ask yourself the following questions:
- What makes you want to drink coffee?
- What is the signal to get up from your chair?
- Do you want to rest? are you sleepy? do you want to talk to someone?
2. Experiment with different rewards:
In the process of changing habits, rewards represent what we want, and they are powerful because they give us satisfaction and peace of mind. Even without knowing them very well.
Although we may think that they are very obvious, once we are in a habit, it becomes difficult to understand why we do things.
To identify what rewards or desires we are seeking through our habits, we must experiment with different alternatives.
You don’t need to change the habit to begin with, just experiment with different habits and see what the result is. It’s kind of an experiment where you’re collecting data.
With the example of coffee:
When you feel like going for your coffee, on the first day of the experiment, change your routine and see what happens. Here is a series of experiments you can do:
- Day 1: Instead of stopping at the cafeteria, you can go for a walk and have a drink.
- Day 2: Go to the cafeteria to prepare an aromatic and return to your desk.
- Day 3: Don’t go to the cafeteria but visit a friend’s stand, talk to them for 10 minutes and go back to your desk.
The idea of these experiments is to find your reward, what is the desire that you are trying to satisfy with your routine of stopping for coffee.
When you start running them you will be able to answer questions like:
- Are you drinking your coffee because you are sleepy, or because you want to rest?
- Is the real reason because you want to talk to someone and be entertained?
- Do you want to pause before continuing with a new activity?
Identify your behavior patterns:
In the book, The power of habitshis actor charles duhigg suggests that once you try different rewards, you should identify your patterns.
This means that you must write what you feel once you return to your job. No matter how banal, simple or basic it is, write what you feel. For example:
- eager to work
- I’m sleepier than before
- I have to send that email
Once you write this, wait 15 minutes and ask yourself if you still feel like having that coffee.
Why is this important in a change of habits?
The importance lies in the fact that it makes you aware for a few moments of your actions, decisions and emotions. Studies show that when you write, it helps you remember what’s on your mind at the time.
That way, when you finish your experiment and read what you wrote, you will remember every emotion you felt with the different rewards and habits.
The second part is the most important, which is when you wait 15 minutes. The purpose of these experiments is to see how you react and behave after having different routines.
If 15 minutes after going for a walk you still want to stop for a coffee, your habit is not motivated by wanting to distract yourself. If after preparing the aromatic you still want coffee, it is not due to the desire to drink something hot.
Now, if after going to visit your friend’s workplace it is easy for you to return to work and be more productive, you will have found your reward:
The desire to socialize and share with your peers.
now you can redesign and change your habit that fits your true reward. The only pending thing to be able to change your habit is to identify the signal that generates this whole circle.
3. Isolate the signal:
According charles duhiggthe reason why it is so difficult to identify which cues drive our habits is because there is so much information happening at the same time.
There is so much information (and signals) that we no longer know if we eat breakfast because we are hungry or because it is 8 in the morning, if we drink coffee once we get up because we want to, or out of habit.
So how to identify this famous sign?
Science has the answer. Years of research have found that the cues that trigger habits fall into one of these five categories.
- Emotional state
- Immediate Prior Action
Using the coffee example, this is how the signal for all three experiments would be identified:
The conclusion that we can reach, or the pattern that is found, is that around 3 in the afternoon you need a break.
It is not a need for coffee, it is a matter of doing something different, such as talking to people in the cafeteria.
4. Have a plan:
Now that you have identified each of the three components of your habit, you can improve it, change it, or simply eliminate it in such a way that you achieve your reward.
In the coffee example, create a plan so that an alarm always sounds at 3:30 in the afternoon from Monday to Friday to notify you to go talk to someone, you can do it for 20 minutes for example. It can be your partner, boss or whoever you have close.
Surely you will have your reward, and this change of habits will help you to be more productive. Over time this will become a habit, it will be part of your routine.
Never forget that a habit was a decision that was made consciously at some point, so you can make a new one today and get out of your comfort zone.
You just have to remember to identify the signal, change your routine and understand what your reward or desire is. This will achieve a change in habits, regardless of the area in your life that you want to improve.
Continue reading: 15 Good habits to build the life you dream of so much
Important note: This scheme was taken from the book The Power of Habitsif you want to learn more about this, I recommend you read it.