It is difficult to develop new habits. Every day we must overcome ourselves, to fight our desires. If we fail, we get frustrated and blame ourselves in the absence of willpower and determination. In fact, the wrong strategy, is to blame. Here are10 serious mistakes that prevent you from changing your habits!
By avoiding these mistakes, you develop good habits and consolidate them.
Mistake #1: Relying on Willpower
Like most people, I used to rely on willpower to change my behaviours. I would “will” myself to eat fruit and vegetables, exercise and socialise.
But the truth is willpower is a limited mental resource and the more you use it, the more it impairs your self-control. This is known as decision fatigue orego depletion.
Instead of relying on willpower to learn new behaviours, form what Fogg calls “tiny habits” instead.
Mistake #2: Attempting Big Steps Instead of Baby Steps
In a world where we’re led to believe personal achievement should only be celebrated when it’s large and with visible results, it’s hard to start small.
But the secret to long-term change, is to focus on baby steps (to begin with) and do things you can sustain – like improving 1 percent daily.
Seek “tiny successes”, one after another. Flossed one tooth? You deserve a pat on the back. Said no to a dessert? Go wild on cheat day. Remember: Celebrate – and do so often.
Mistake #3: Ignoring How Environment Shapes Behaviour
Taking the batteries out of your television remote control, deleting social media apps on your mobile phone and even serving meal portions on small plates, can all affect your behaviour – and for the better.
Change your environment and change your behaviours.
Become a choice architect and redesign your environment so it’s conducive to your new behaviour.
Mistake #4: Trying to Stop Old Behaviours Instead of Creating New Ones
Going cold turkey to break bad habits is a popular, albeit difficult strategy to maintain; cravings aren’t satisfied and as a result, willpower failures become inevitable.
In his book One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way, Dr. Robert Maurer recounts how he helped his patient, Rachel, kick her smoking habit by asking her to leave a voicemail on his phone whenever she felt the urge to smoke.
The result? She realised her reason for smoking in the first place and overcame her addiction.
Focus on taking action, rather than avoiding the problem entirely. It’s almost impossible to stop a negative behaviour, so replace it with a positive one instead.
Mistake #5: Blaming Failures on Lack of Motivation
Your motivation – like your emotional state – ebbs and flows; it’s unpredictable and when you do need to rely on it, you’ll often be disappointed.
You don’t need motivation to change, but what you do need areeasier behaviours, ones that are impossible to resist. Eat one portion of fruit. Floss one tooth. Run to the next lamppost. In other words, make it, as Leo Babauta writes: “So easy, you can’t say no”.
Mistake #6: Understanding the Power of Triggers
At the core of every habit is the same neurological loop. There’s a cue, a routine and a reward. The cue is the trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use.
SOLUTION: No behaviour happens without a cue, so to break bad habits, identify your cues (there’s often more than one) and to form new ones that stick, choose a cue like an immediately preceding action. An existing habit, like waking up, is perfect.
Mistake #7: Believing That Information Leads to Action
Knowledge is not power, but knowledge and application is. An idea is only as good as its execution, so be sure to apply one new idea you learn, be it from this article or another.
Don’t be rational about change, get emotional; associate massive pain to not changing and pleasure to changing.
Mistake #8: Focusing on Abstract Goals More Than Concrete Behaviours
Turn your new behaviours intoactionable steps that are easy to follow.
Mistake #9: Seeking to Change a Behaviour Forever, Not For a Short Time
If we’re not dwelling on the past, we’re thinking about the future.
Focus on the present and what you can do, today. First things first. One step in front of the other.
A fixed period works better than “forever”. The trick is to turn a new behaviour into something you can count. The number of days you don’t do a negative behaviour or the number of days you do a replacement routine.
Track one day to begin with, then a week, then a month and so on. You have one job: don’t break the chain.
Mistake #10: Assuming That Behaviour Change Is Difficult
It’s easier to argue you can’t change because you “lack willpower” (or any other excuse) than it is to do something.
But when you have a framework for change – like the habit loop – you have no excuses.
Decide what you want to change and take one new action, now.
Identify a cue. Celebrate a success. Replace a routine. Just dosomething.