Habits: Shaping Our Lives More Often Than You'd Think, Part 2

Last month we discussed habits and some background information on them. Great, you’re thinking, why does it matter? At Achieve, we believe that the more educated you are, the more likely you are to make better decisions and get on the path to leading a healthy lifestyle. So, why habits? Why do you need to know about them?

Quick recap – our brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort and that is exactly what habits do. We receive information from our environment that triggers a response in us, and if we like the result, it will become a habit. But, here’s the kicker - our habits will continue to unfold unless we deliberately fight them.

How do we fight them?

The first step in fighting anything is recognition; you must recognize that you have a habit that you’re trying to change or create. At the end of the last installment, you were asked to think about a few things considering some of your habits, they were:

  • Are you more likely to engage in a bad habit when you’re in a group or alone?
  • If you could change one habit without effort and thought, which one would it be?
  • Of the habits I have now, which one would you want your kid(s) to develop or not develop?

It is key to know yourself and know how you will respond to expectations that you (or someone else) set and what motivates you. There are four tendencies in people; they are upholders, questioners, obligers, or rebels. Upholders respond well to both internal and external expectations – they want to know what is expected of them. Questioners will question all expectations, but will meet expectations they believe are justified; motivated by reason, logic, & fairness. Obligers will meet external expectations, but struggle meeting internal ones; motivated by external accountability. Rebels resist all expectations and make their habits based on what they feel are their choices.* If you know which way you tend to lean, it can help you start to change your habits.

Next, you need to pick the habit you would like to change (see below for some general suggestions), and then identify what happens in your habit loop. Quick recap - habits occur in a “loop” that is triggered by a cue, which is then followed by a routine (which can be physical, mental, or emotional), and it gets instilled in us because of the reward we receive from our actions. Over time, this loop occurs more and more automatically and as soon as we “see” the cue, our brain begins craving the reward. This craving is what causes us to keep our habits, which will continue to occur unless we deliberately combat the loop we’ve developed.

First, you need to identify your reward. What is it that you are craving? Is it a feeling? Is it a sensation? Then, figure out your cue. Figuring out your cue could be the most important step – it is what starts your habit/routine in motion. Your cue will fit into one of five categories and you will need to ask yourself questions about each category:

  1. Location – Where are you?
  2. Time – What time is it?
  3. Emotional State – What are you feeling?
  4. Other People – Who is around?
  5. Preceding Action – What happened just before the urge?

Make a note each time you get the craving about what is going on around you. It should take a couple days of note taking before you can identify your true cue – but once you do, you will now have the power to change it!

Now that you know yourself, identified the habit you’d like to change/create, and figured out your habit loop, it is time to develop a plan of attack! Look for our newsletter next month on how to generate a plan of attack!

Remember –

  • YOU must decide to change your habit
  • YOU must accept the hard work it will take to identify the cues & rewards
  • YOU must know that you do have control
  • YOU must believe that you can change the habit – we believe you can!

Suggestions for habits to change

  • Sleep – being mildly but chronically short of sleep makes people more susceptible to hunger & temptation
  • Move/Exercise – active people are less likely to gain or regain weight; it is good for stress release & a good energy booster
  • Eat & Drink Correctly – helps us lose weight, become healthier, avoid chronic diseases/medications
  • Unclutter – a clean, well-maintained environment helps to foster a sense of self-command which in turn makes it easier to maintain good habits

*For more information about tendencies in people, pick up a copy of Gretchen Rubin’s “Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives”.