A habit is a routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously. James Clear, in his book Atomic Habits, puts it better that a habit is a behavior that has been repeated enough times to become automatic. Before we go deeper, kindly find the fore mentioned book and read. Packed with evidence-based self-improvement strategies, Atomic Habits will teach you how to make the small changes that will transform your habits and deliver remarkable results.
Your life today is essentially the sum of your habits. How in shape or out of shape you are is a result of your habits. How happy or unhappy you are is a result of your habits. How successful or unsuccessful you are is a result of your habits. What you repeatedly do ultimately forms the person you are, the things you believe, and the personality that you portray. Habits may be good or bad. Hard working, honesty, eating healthy food, being clean, writing, reading, regular exercise, meditation, etc. are examples of good habits. Alcoholism, drug addiction, misusing money, sleeping, procrastination, telling lies, dishonesty, stealing, deceiving others, cheating, etc. are examples of bad habits.
You will be surprised by the power of tiny habits because success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations. Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally. If you want to predict where you’ll end up in life, all you have to do is follow the curve of tiny gains or tiny losses, and see how your daily choices will compound ten or twenty years down the line. Breakthrough moments are often the result of many previous actions, which build up the potential required to unleash a major change.
Plateau of Latent Potential: People make a few small changes, fail to see a tangible result, and decide to stop. In order to make a meaningful difference, habits need to persist long enough to break through this plateau–the Plateau of Latent Potential. When you finally break through the Plateau of Latent Potential, people will call it an overnight success. This phenomenon also influences negative habits. When the plateau is broken, a negative habit matures into a negative outcome. If you observe the history of a rapist, you will notice a consistent negative habit dominating their lives over some period of time. People who steal huge chunks of money in banks started with a habit, probably stealing few coins at their homes. Small changes often appear to make no difference until you cross the critical threshold, hence the need to pay attention on the type of habit building in your life. Nevertheless, the most powerful outcomes of any compounding process are delayed.
Changing a habit: The process of behavior change always starts with awareness. You need to be aware of your habits before you can change them. The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become. Your identity emerges out of your habits. Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. Decide the type of person you want to be, then prove it to yourself with your small daily habits. If you’re having trouble changing a habit, ask yourself: ‘Does this behavior help me become the type of person I wish to be? Does this habit cast a vote for or against my desired identity? With enough practice, your brain will pick up on the cues that predict certain outcomes without consciously thinking about it. Environment matters a lot while changing a habit. Since environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior, it is easier to build new habits in a new environment because you are not fighting against old cues. One of the most practical ways to eliminate a bad habit is to reduce exposure to the cue that causes it.
Another way of changing a habit is to make a behavior satisfying. We are more likely to repeat a behavior when the experience is satisfying because the human brain evolved to prioritize immediate rewards over delayed rewards. The cardinal rule of behavior change: What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided. To get a good habit to stick you need to feel immediately successful—even if it’s in a small way.
The role of an Accountability Partner: We are less likely to repeat a bad habit if it is painful or unsatisfying. An accountability partner can create an immediate cost to inaction. We care deeply about what others think of us, and we do not want others to have a lesser opinion of us. Knowing that someone else is watching you can be a powerful motivator.
The Role of Family and Friends in Shaping Your Habits: (1 Corinthians 15:33) Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” The culture we live in determines which behaviors are attractive to us. We tend to adopt habits that are praised and approved of by our culture because we have a strong desire to fit in and belong to the tribe. One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where, first, your desired behavior is the normal behavior and, secondly, you already have something in common with the group. The normal behavior of the group often overpowers the desired behavior of the individual. Most days, we’d rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves.
How to get rid of bad habits: Bad habits have the power to damage your health, career, and relationships. If you feel powerless and cannot find the willpower to quit a bad habit, then it is time to work harder and take action before your life spirals out of control. Let us look into some steps towards avoiding a bad habit.
Step 1: Identify the habit loop. The most crucial step to breaking a bad habit is understanding where it stems from. Try to notice what triggers your bad habit. Look at the circumstances surrounding the behavior including the time of day, who you’re with, and what emotions you’re feeling’. Identifying the trigger will help turn your bad habit into a conscious behavior.
Step 2: Stop forcing yourself to stop thinking of it: Trying to force yourself to stop thinking about your bad habit only makes you think about it more. This can lead to frustration and obsession. Shifting your mindset can help you overcome your bad habit and replace it with something healthier. For example, instead of saying ‘I will stop eating unhealthy food’, tell yourself ‘I will start eating healthy food’.
Step 3: Look for alternatives: After you have mastered the first two steps, look for healthier alternatives to replace your habits. This means that when you notice a trigger, you can actively choose a healthier behavior. This way you will be able to build new routines and new habits.
Step 4: Get rid of triggers: After having clearly identified your triggers, you should work to eliminate as many as possible. It is important to note that triggers can be people, situations, things and even environment. If you avoid the things which trigger your bad habit, you will be less likely to feel the need to engage in your destructive behavior.
Step 5: Remind yourself to be patient: It takes a lot of time for a certain behavior to turn into a habit. Similarly, it takes an even longer time for a bad habit to be broken or replaced by another, healthier habit. So as to not face disappointment and frustration, you need to remind yourself that it can take months for change to take place.
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