How To Change A Habit
When I talk about habits, I am including personal behavior patterns as well as relationship patterns and patterns of repeating circumstances. I am not saying that anyone necessarily creates all these patterns.
However, I am saying that these kinds of patterns do not keep repeating themselves without our help. The solution is not to blame others, or luck or fate. The solution is to change our own behavior in some way. Which brings us to our first point.
The most important factor in changing any kind of habit is motivation. Motivation is poorly understood, because it includes two different, but related, concepts that are equally vital for a habit change to be effective.
The first concept is desire. In order to change a habit, there has to be something you want that is different from what you have. This is usually called a "motive," a reason for making a change. Most commonly, this is a desire to get away from some kind of pain.
That is also the weakest kind of motive. That's because it takes a lot more energy to move away from something rather than toward something. I'll explain why a little further on. Just note that a motive for something has more power and less strain than a motive against something.
The assumption I'm making now is that you have a habit--or a habitual situation--that you want to change. So think about what you'd like to have instead of what you do have, then think about the benefits of having something better, and pela no! There you have it! Your motive!
That's only the first half of the first part, though. The second part of the first half comes from the other meaning of motivation: action. It doesn't matter how positive or worthy the motive is, nothing happens to change a thing until we take action.
If you want to stop smoking, you have to do whatever it takes to help you stop smoking, and then, at some point, you have to actually stop smoking. If you want to have better relationships, you have to learn what better relationships are like, and act accordingly.
If being unsuccessful seems to be a habit, you have to learn all you can about successful people, and do what they do, in your own way. The same is true if being unhappy seems to be a habit. Study what happy people do, and practice.
Now we have reached the really tough part: taking action. Habits, even bad ones, are comfortable, because they are easy to do and they hold few surprises. New habits tend to be uncomfortable, because it takes time to become skilled at them and they usually hold lots of surprises.
By the way, for the benefit of anyone who doesn't know this yet, you can't get rid of bad habits. You can only exchange them for new habits. Smokers learn how to be non-smokers. Unsuccessful people learn how to be successful. Unhappy people learn how to be happy.
It's time to take a look at what it takes to change a habit once you know what you want and have begun the process. The next thing is concentration. You have to practice the new way of thinking, feeling, and acting until it becomes a habit.
One thing that helps concentration is the strength of the desire you have to change. How much do you really want the benefits of changing? If you discover that the benefits of not changing outweigh the benefits of changing, to you at least, then nothing you try will work.
You can increase the level of desire--and therefore concentration--by imagining the benefits in detail and allowing yourself to get excited about them. You can also find as many ways as possible of reminding yourself of the benefits, because they are easy to forget in the middle of an old habit or under stress.
The third thing after motivation and concentration is confidence. This means not allowing doubt to slow you down or make you give up. It doesn't mean to be completely free of doubt. Even Superman has his doubts. Having doubts is not the problem.
Whether there is a problem depends on what you do when doubts appear. Too many people take this as a sign of failure, when it's only a sign that you are beginning to change. You disempower doubts by ignoring them, chasing them away, or replacing them.
What do you replace them with? Positive words (like strong affirmations, decisions, or self commands), positive images (of the benefits, or of yourself as you will be when the new habit is working), and positive feelings (based on good memories and good expectations).
Another excellent thing that helps weaken doubt is self appreciation. Give yourself positive acknowledgment for every little good step forward and ignore or declare the unimportance of any steps backward. Treat giant steps forward as being equal in importance to baby steps. As a wise old man once said: If you want to change your life, you have to change your life.