From hitting the snooze button, or opting for a tea over soda, every day we make thousands of choices (35,000 if we are being exact.) Choices, in conjunction with our daily routine, become habits - whether we realize it or not. Good habits can lead to a more successful and purpose-driven life. Bad habits can compound upon each other and become difficult to escape. So let's dig into what makes a habit and how to potentially break them.
A University College London study found that it takes approximately 66 days for behavior to become automatic.
If your life is anything like mine, your day is jam packed from start to finish. We often make seemingly irrelevant decisions in the matter of a second, giving those decisions hardly any thought. A quick example:
You’re out to lunch with the guys ordering food and answering a barrage of questions regarding sides, sizes and drinks:
“Yes, yes, sure.”
That “sure” to the drink question can lead to approximately 150-200 calories.
Let’s talk about that process, called “habituation." This is when a behavior becomes automatic, through repetition and reinforcement. The more often a behavior is repeated, the more ingrained it becomes in our subconscious mind. Habits are also influenced by our environment and the cues that trigger them. For example, if you always grab a snack when you watch TV, the act of watching TV becomes a cue that triggers the habit of snacking.
The real problem here is how easy and thoughtless this process is, and how quickly those days add up and a habit is established.
Michael Jordan didn’t become the greatest basketball player of all time (I said what I said) by simply relying on his strengths. He attacked his weaknesses and made them his strengths (Defensive Player of the Year 88’ and NBA MVP, too. They now call it the Michael Jordan Trophy. I digress.)
Rather than mindlessly making those 35,000 decisions in your day, why not create a plan to attack them? Consciously make an effort to do so for 66 days and you have yourself a good habit on cruise control!
To create a good habit, start small and focus on one behavior at a time. Choose a behavior that is specific and measurable.
For example, instead of "exercising more," set a goal of "doing 30 minutes of cardio three times a week." Make the behavior a part of your daily routine by setting a specific time and place for it. Additionally, associate the behavior with a positive reinforcement, such as a reward or a feeling of accomplishment. The more you repeat the behavior, the more likely it is to become a habit.
But what about breaking a bad habit? To be a bit harsh, its actually quite simple, binary even. Instead of yes, say no. And vice versa.
However, breaking a bad habit requires a different approach than creating a good one. To break a bad habit, you have to identify it, as well as the cues that trigger it. I’ll give you an example from my college days:
The Habit—late night junk food.
The Cue—going out with friends to the bars.
The Trigger—too many beers.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for all 3 of the above, just don’t make it a habit.
Once you have identified the cue, find a way to avoid it or replace it with a positive behavior. For example, if you habitually snack on junk food when you watch TV, find a healthy snack to eat instead or do something during that time. From the example above, I rarely went out in college as I was still a collegiate athlete, but if I did, I would strategically have a protein shake and healthy snack waiting for me.
I recently wrote a blog about “The Older I Get The Faster I Was.” You can’t rely on the achievements and gains from years ago, forever. As we get older, these choices and their implications dramatically compound, good or bad. The result? A new you.
Don’t let the old “you” be a heroic saga of the past. Take a hard look in the mirror, ask yourself the challenging and uncomfortable questions, then lean in every single day to create a better you.
I believe in you and look forward to hearing your stories. Share them in the comments or email me at Taylor@MdriveForMen.com
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