Habits: Part 3-Making a Game Plan

Have you decided which habit it is that you’re going to change in your life? Have you taken notes on what is going on around you in order to identify your cue for your habit? If you remember from last month, you wanted to ask yourself questions concerning different categories regarding your cue when you felt the craving. Those were:

  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?

Once you’re able to answer all of those and identify what your cue is, you’ll have power over it. The next step is having a plan of attack ready for when you get the craving.

By choosing a certain plan of how to behave and react when the cue hits, it will become easier to change your habit. First, you will need to write out exactly what your cue is and what response it triggers in you. Example:

  • ·    When I feel (or think, see, time, etc.) lonely, I crave bingeing on sweets while watching TV.

Writing out whatever cue it is that triggers your craving will help you acknowledge what you are doing and make you more conscious of it. After that, you need to write down several responses you’re going to do instead of your current habit. This is one way in which to create and replace your current with a new one. Such responses could be:

  • Instead of bingeing on sweets while watching TV, I will:
  • Walk the dog
  • Go for a jog
  •  Read
  • Call my parents/friends/other relatives

It is important to have a plan for what you’re going to do when your cue pops up – this will enable you to fight it better, have power over it, and create a better habit. You must know that you have control over it and be self-conscious enough to work towards changing it.

It is important to remember that you should take smalls steps towards changing your habit. Do not look to change several habits at once, or completely overhaul a habit by eliminating it entirely or taking drastic measures. Focus on taking small, manageable steps. You will see results that will last instead of a quick fix and falling back into old habits. It also enables you to have small victories and have a sense of accomplishment, which is important to keep you on the right path.

There are also several tips that you can utilize to help you on your path to be successful while changing your habit. One is monitoring. Simple, right? But monitoring involves being honest with yourself about what is going on. Say you’re trying to change an eating habit you have – logging your food won’t help unless you’re completely honest about what you’re eating.

Another way to help create a new habit is scheduling. Making a schedule of your daily/weekly activities and actually scheduling in a new habit you want to accomplish helps. This is especially true for those individuals that stick to whatever is on their calendar. If you’re trying to workout more, read more, meditate, etc., putting it on your calendar and setting an alarm to remind you has been shown to have great results. It helps you eliminate decision-making, fight procrastination, and make time for things that are important to you. A final way in which you can build or change habits is having an accountability buddy/application. You can select a friend or individual that will make you accountable for your actions (good or bad) when we just can’t rely on ourselves. Often times this is a personal trainer for those trying to work out, or a spouse when trying to eat healthy. There are also applications on your phone that you can use to mark down when you’ve done things – they even remind you when you haven’t checked it off for the day (or time) that you have set. Some great ones are Habit List, Way of Life, and Coach.me. Any of these will go a long way to tracking your habits.

Whatever way you choose to build better habits, it must work for you! Make sure that you focus on your progress, the small victories, and not being perfect. You will have slips – that’s why people plan cheat days; they help you stay on track – but remember and focus on the fact that you’re human and will be able to get back on the wagon towards change. And, of course, you must always believe in your ability to change and create new habits. Don’t wait…the time to start is now!