NCT publication Jan 2015

Habits - and how to break them!

Chances are, you didn’t purposefully set out to be in the situation you are in.
So how DID you end up in a situation you are unhappy about? That’s right….habits. You got busy with a new job and felt you could only find time to eat on the go. Or one day you chose not to exercise, or meditate, or whatever gives you stress relief, and that turned in to two days, a week, a month. And now here you are, shoulders up to your ears, back in knots, and yelling at the kids.

But the good news is they aren’t really that hard to break, and it’s not that hard to form new, good ones. It only takes 30 days (give or take).
Everyone can “see” 30 days. We just picture a page of a calendar. It’s really not that long. Truth is you’ll have to go one day at a time. Even one minute at a time sometimes. But the point is it’s really doable. 30 days is a very digestible chunk of time.

There are some steps that will help you when you are ready to change a habit, either lose an old one or form a new one.

Grab a piece of paper.

Do this now. Yes, you. The first thing you have to do is write down what you want to change. On paper. That might be really hard. But no one has to see it but you. Think small…. You can always expand on it after you’ve succeeded. In my coaching practice, we call this a baby step. You didn’t run before you could walk, did you?

This is important – only pick one habit at a time.

Don’t try to quit smoking and drinking at the same time. Or go to the gym every day and go vegetarian. Studies show that people who try to do too much at the same time, fail at all of it. You are not the exception here. So pick just one. And pick something that you cannot fail at. Here’s a great example from a friend of mine. He was quite obese and had not worked out in ages, and wanted to do something he could commit to. So wisely, he decided that going to the gym meant he arrived there and walked up the stairs to the check in desk. That was going to the gym for him. Some days that’s all he could manage. Some days he did more. But he formed that new habit, and soon he was down 140 pounds.

Next, write why you want to change your habit.

Do you feel bad because you are doing something that doesn’t honour yourself? Paint yourself a picture in words. Now think about how good you’ll feel once you’ve accomplished your goal! Use lots of adjectives. Think of how magical that will be; what you will have proven to yourself.

Next, write down your road blocks.

What will keep you from accomplishing your goal? This may not be easy. What are the triggers that make you want to smoke? A cup of coffee? A phone call?
What would keep you from drinking more water? Give it some time to develop. Now think of what you can do to counteract that road block. Go for a walk. Take five deep breaths. In order to be successful, you need to be prepared. This is a very important planning phase. You may be tempted to skip this because it is hard. You must do this to give yourself the best chance at success. We want you to succeed in order to build on your success.

There’s a gremlin among us all.

This gremlin is the dude(ette) that says, “You can’t,” “You always failed before, what makes this time different,” etc. The gremlin is not your authentic self. Notice it when it pops up and in the knowing that it is NOT YOU, you will be more able to make it through the challenge of that moment.

Find some support!

When the going gets tough, even the toughest of us need help. Find someone that can help you. It could be a coach, your spouse, your child, a friend that you are working on the same or similar habit with. For some, asking for help is really hard. But you are worth it. At some point, you will need help. So be prepared in advance and ask someone if you can count on them.

Remember getting “gold stars” when you were a child?

Create a record of how you will keep track of your habit. It could be a sticker chart, or a piece of paper on the fridge. You could check in on Facebook every time you go to the gym like my friend does. Or text somebody that helps, that keeps you accountable. Accountability is a huge part of change. Plan your reward for when you are successful! That’s the fun part.

So by now you have accomplished the following steps and written them down:

  • Identified the habit you want to change.
  • Made your goal small and really doable.
  • Felt the pain of what is motivating you to change.
  • Felt the pleasure of what it will feel to be successful in making your change.
  • Identified your road blocks and for each road block, what positive behaviour you will do.
  • Accepted that you have a gremlin. Name it. It’s fun. Even draw its picture.
  • Who is your support?
  • Created a tracking system and decided on a reward you will give yourself upon succeeding.

So now that you have written all that down (you have actually written it down, right? If not, please do it now.) I hope you’ll find yourself saying “I can do that!” Because you can. Really!

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