Habits – we all have them. They can be good, or they can be bad, but one thing for sure – they can surely have an effect of a more peaceful life.
There’s an old quote about habits says, “The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” by Warren Buffet. The wisdom here is that we need to be aware of our habits, and be mindful of how they affect us. They can creep up on us if we are not careful.
Some habits are easily formed, and some take a lot of work to attain. It often seems like the good habits take a lot of work, and the bad habits – not so much. We can easily fall into a habit that doesn’t benefit us, but if you do, rest assured you can still change. Always remember that you are in control of yourself, not your habits.
Habit expert and writer of the book Atomic Habits, James Clear, has four rules for forming habits that can help you take charge of them. Whether the habits are good or bad, you can still use these rules to gain some measure of control. These rules, according to Atomic Habits, are:
● Make it attractive
● Make it easy
● Make it satisfying
Make it Obvious
To take charge of your habits, you need to make them obvious. For example, let’s say you want to start running. If your running shoes and gear are in the closet, then that habit isn’t apparent. Instead of sifting through your wardrobe for your shoes, your brain will just want to stay in bed.
So, you can put your running shoes by the door and make sure that they are the first thing you see in the morning. Then you’ll be reminded that you should run today.
To break bad habits, you want to hide them away. Maybe you are having a difficult time eating a regular size portion of your favorite healthy snack. Try packaging them into the correct serving size for you. Put the packages out of sight, and only leave out the one that you plan to have for that day.
Make it Attractive
With habits, most people focus only on the long-term goals. You might say, “I will go for a run to get my beach body in ten weeks.” While that goal is noble, it does not motivate most people when running in the cold and feeling miserable.
So, make your habits attractive and give yourself a reward or incentive to get it done. Maybe run with a friend or have your running trail pass by a place where you can have a great cup of coffee or time your run to see the sunrise.
For bad habits, try doing the opposite. If you are trying to stay away from that candy or treat you have set aside for your family a for special occasion, put it somewhere really inconvenient to get to. Make it inconvenient, or put a sign up that diverts your attention to something else.
Make it Easy
In his October 2019 article, “We’re Wired to Take The Easiest Path Possible (And What to do About it),” Thomas Oppong says, “Humans are naturally hard-wired to take the path of least resistance.” That applies to all we do, but especially when it comes to habits.
Let’s take a look at how we can use this idea in an unusual way to help build good habits. Say that you want to develop the habit of keeping things clean and organized. You choose to start by cleaning out the garage – an overwhelming task in your eyes. In fact, it’s almost too overwhelming to get started. Try telling yourself, I will spend fifteen minutes cleaning and organizing my garage. It will be much easier to get started, and most likely after fifteen minutes you will just keep on going.
For bad habits, once again, do the opposite. Try adding more resistance. Are you trying to cut down on the amount of television you watch? Move the television to somewhere less convenient. If that’s not possible, move the controls. Make it so you have to think twice before turning on the television and you may find you are watching much less.
We all enjoy treats. I’m not talking about just sweets and candy – in fact treats don’t have to be edible at all. Treats can come in the form of self care, taking an extra break, watching a favorite move, the options are endless. Treats can fit any budget, you just need to get creative.
If you want to encourage good habits, or get rid of poor habits, then set some milestones. As you complete each milestone give yourself a treat. Once you establish the habit, don’t forget to continue to reward yourself periodically so you stay motivated.
For example, if you are working towards a goal of walking three miles every day, then reward yourself along the way. After you have walked one mile or more for a month, buy yourself some walking shoes or treat yourself to a pedicure or foot massage. Do that again after the two mile mark, and once you are consistently at three miles a day, reward yourself monthly. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant.
For bad habits, reward yourself as you improve upon or remove those habits from your life.
You Are In Control
Every thought you have, every action you take, and every habit you form comes from you. You are in control of your thoughts. Make sure your actions align with your values. Make your habits work for you. Ask yourself, “is this habit something that is going to benefit me and help me live the life I am supposed to live?” If the answer is no, you have the power to do something else. If the answer is yes, you are on your way to becoming an even better version of yourself!
Find you purpose – find your joy!