If you’re anything like me, there are things in your life that you would like to change. Some of those things are related to your genes; perhaps others are related to your opinions, thoughts, or beliefs about life; and there might be a few habits that you want to develop or dispose of.
I want to share with you the best way that I have used over the past few years to create new habits and get rid of old ones. Chances are you have tried . . . then failed using your best intentions. I am here to tell you that you might have forgotten a key ingredient in the planning stage of your habit transformation.
I like to call this “Associative Habit Formation” (a term I just made up for this blog post). 🙂
Making a New Habit
Most of us have something we know we should be doing in life, and we all have struggled with getting traction while starting. I’m here to share with you that you have a secret (though completely obvious) weapon at your disposal and this is the tool you use to create your new habit.
This secret weapon is your already established habits. Most of us have routines that we are already in, and we can use these comfortable ruts to change our lives.
Let me explain Associative Habit Formation from my own life. For a long time I knew I needed to floss once a day, however I almost never would. Also, I would brush occasionally, but not as frequent as I should as well. Using the secret weapon of my established rut, I now brush and floss regularly, and could not ever see my life differently moving forward.
Here’s how it works, I mentally tied the laying down in bed action (routine/habit) with the mental checklist of brushing and flossing. If I have not completed this activity, there are still things left in my day to do, and it will bother me if they are left “undone”. The 2-3 minutes it takes to brush and floss is tiny compared to the 30 minutes lying awake with a mental battle of whether or not to get up and solve this disconnect.
While your desired habit might not be as simple, tie it to an action that you already do regularly (either as something you will do right before or right after) and experience a new habit form in your life. It does take discipline, but it is easier to schedule into a busy, hectic life.
Breaking a Habit
Breaking a bad habit is tricky, but still doable. We can use our secret weapon in reverse. Chances are, once we have targeted a bad habit that we want to eliminate, we can tag it with activities on either end of it. Using these established activities, we can intentionally curb our bad behavior and eliminate the bad habit.
As an example, if we want to eliminate the bad habit of watching hours of TV in the evening, and it is something we do regularly (perhaps during and after supper), we must choose a different location to tie eating to. We must pick a different place — one where there is no TV present — and eat there instead. After finishing eating, we must tie a new action to the conclusion of our meal (such as clearing off the table, putting the food away, and then going for a walk, playing a game using the table we just cleared, etc.).
Mentally associating new activities to push the old habits out of our lives is the key for making and breaking the activities in our lives as we intentionally create the life we want.
Q: What are some things you have done to create, break, or redefine habits in your life?
Q: Have you tried “Associative Habit Formation” in your own life?