Part of what makes us unhappy is related to our own habits and behaviors.
Growing up, we develop habits and behaviors based on education, culture, experience or so forth.
Nevertheless there are 3 steps that will lead us to hold habits in autopilot in your life.
Step 1: Learn something new, at first it seems uncomfortable like walking or driving a car for the first time
Step 2: You repeat the task or activity several times to become familiar with it and your brain identify trigger and emotion.
Step 3: one day your brain as a computer record the trigger, the emotion and the action tied to it and you have a new habit or behavior
Neuroscientists have traced our habit-making behaviors to a part of the brain called the basal ganglia, which also plays a key role in the development of emotions, memories and pattern recognition. Decisions, meanwhile, are made in a different part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. But as soon as a behavior becomes automatic, the decision-making part of your brain goes into a sleep mode of sorts.
Changing habits will require often more effort than adopting a new one because we will not have to compete with an old ingrained habit wired deeply in our brain.
Recently one of my friend was wishing for an easy instant process to get rid of old habits and patterns. There is no such thing yet available on the market. A huge marketplace is opened to anyone daring enough. Until then what do we do when we realize a bad habit or behavior is holding us back? How do we let go of it and commit to our desire for sustainable change?
Prepare the soil
People tend to discard the first two most important steps of the change process when wanting to kiss an old habit goodbye. Before altering the habit, it is important to understand it. *What do we do?
*How do we do it?
*Where does it come from?
*What is the trigger?
*How does this habit made us feel so far?
Most of my clients wants to go from A (old habit) to B (new habit) in an instant or so. To get from point A to point B in real life, you must know where you are before going where you want to go. Then, to ensure you get to your destination it makes sense to evaluate how to get there. Do we walk? Take the bus? Drive a car? Fly out?
What motivated us to be where we are at the first place?
What has motivated us to wanting to place B?
You get the process. To be successful and anchor new habits and new behaviors we better understand them first so we save ourselves failed attempts and disappointment.
During this first phase the emotional aspect of the habit is as important as the habit itself. If the emotion feels good or remind you of a good time with a loved one or has developed has a protective habit, chances are some work will need to be done to detach from the emotional tie before even starting to adopt a new habit.
People who want to lose weight for example might have a big challenge not so much in exercise and following a diet from the mental aspect of it but more about the emotional tie they have with food or meals. The pleasure of eating or the comfort food brings to some people must be taken into consideration so they can recreate with their new habit a similar feeling.
When you have identified all those parameters, you will have 50% of what you need to kiss this old habit goodbye.
Fertilizing the ground
Old behaviors stick and it is easy to fall back. Don’t worry about relapses unless you have an addiction and in this case a trained therapist will assist you further in the process.
During this phase what matters the most is to set you mind to accept that change is a process. Be aware of your old habit, become the observer and catch it increasingly often. Don’t fight it much and it will become weaker every day. Instead practice as well your new behavior or habit in parallel and tie to it as pleasant emotion. Exercising can be fun, eating broccoli can be exquisite too!
When I chose to be vegetarian a few years ago, to align to my core values. It was not an easy task and did it anyway. I analyzed what was my old habit of eating meat, what it brought me and what emotion it was tied too. I discovered I was attached to it because my Fiancé loves meat and eating at delicious restaurant where we have fabulous time together. The day I made the decision was such a disappointment for him and a challenge for me as it meant our special moments could be gone forever. It was not, after some time, we started again to go to fancy restaurants and I would ensure the menu would have a great vegetarian option or a large selection of sides and desserts.
When you understand that, everything will seem easier. Indeed, it is important to focus on the daily small steps and not on the ultimate goal. Be content about what you committed to accomplish today and if have done it even partially you are a rock Star, already closer to your ideal habit.