Have you ever tried to change a habit and failed miserably?
Think… Exercising more, giving up coffee or eating less sugar?
If you are anything like me or my clients you probably have. Many people struggle to change habits… and it is not surprising because habits are something we do automatically. There is little if not no thinking involved in performing a habit. Our habits are based on past decisions and do not require conscious choice in the now.
Just think about your morning… you wake up, stumble to the bathroom to pee, then go into the kitchen and make coffee. None of this requires a lot of thinking. Your hands just open cupboards, grab a cup, pour… Very little effort, no decision… Unless you recently moved and don’t know where things are.
Knowing that habits are automatic is a key realization when you want to change a habit. It means a couple of things:
1- if you want to change a habit you have to become present to your habits so you can make a conscious decision to get out of the automation cycle
2- you need to create an environment where adopting the good habit is so easy, it is easier to do it than not to do it.
I have been following this guy named James Clear lately. He is dedicating his work on how to change habits effectively. He does a lot of research. He says this:
“If you want to maximize your odds of success, then you need to operate in an environment that accelerates your results rather than hinders them.” James Clear
Say you want to stop eating sugar but you have candy all over your house. All you need to do is grab it, unwrap it and eat it. It takes little energy, no effort. It’s automatic. If instead you had the candy stored in the back corner of a closet or didn’t even have any at home, it would require much more effort to have some = You are less likely to eat it.
Many people rely on willpower to shift a habit.
They make a decision that from tomorrow onward they are going to exercise 1 hour, 5x/week. After all, they want to lose weight. They are super psyched, they are going to do it!!! Ever did something like that? They sign up for the gym. It works out all great the first week, then the second week it dwindles to 4 days (forgot the gym clothes in the dryer), then to 3 days (it’s’ just so far to the gym) and then they drop it completely (I am too tired; just couldn’t find my shoes and water bottle etc). What happened?
Part of the problem is that in this scenario willpower was the driving force. And willpower is a muscle and like any other muscle it will tire over time. For some this will take a week for others a couple of months but guaranteed is that it will tire.
The question then comes up is, what can we do instead of willpower?
James clear suggests 3 strategies…
I thought they were rad so wanted to share them with you.
Key 1. Automate good decisions.
Whenever possible, design an environment that makes good decisions for you. For example, buying a bag that is solely dedicated to your gym clothes will make it super easy to always have your clothes where they need to be. It’s easy to grab the bag and just go.
Key 2. Get in the flow.
Let’s stay with the gym example for a minute… you are more likely to go to the gym if it is on the way home from work as opposed to five minutes away but in the opposite direction of your commute. Whenever possible, design your habits so they fit in the flow of your current patterns.
Key 3. Subtract negative influences.
For example, you can make it easier to avoid unhealthy foods by storing them in less visible places. Foods that are placed at eye level tend to be eaten more frequently. Putting them in less easily reachable cupboards will reduce the amount you eat of them.
“It is important to remember that the environment drives our good behaviors as well as our bad ones. People who seem to stick to good habits with ease are often benefiting from an environment that makes those behaviors easier” James Clear.
I thought that is such good info I have adopted it when I coach my clients.
Got any habits you want to drop, change or adopt?
Want some support around that?