Habits. We all have them. And we all have some we’d love to change, break, or make! In today’s rapidly changing work environment, there is no shortage of new habits we need to build. Whether it’s washing your hands well, eating healthier, getting more exercise, being more productive at virtual work, or kicking a bad habit to the curb—the road can be bumpy and, oftentimes, very long.
As we’ve all discovered the hard way, establishing new habits is rarely easy. In fact, a study by the University of London shows that it takes an average of 66 days to fully establish a new habit. Depending on the habit, your personality, the internal motivation causing you to change the habit, and the other things going on in your life, that timing could be less or more.
Habits are formed neurologically, and each habit consists of three elements: a cue, a routine, and a reward.
When most people want to change a habit, they focus on the behavior or routine. But we’ve learned that it’s the cue and the reward that truly determines how a habit unfolds. Most behavior originates in the prefrontal cortex of our brains. As a behavior becomes a habit, however, it moves into the basal ganglia section of our brains. Once there, it doesn’t feel like conscious thought so much as something automatic.
Habits allow you to turn tasks into automatic routines so you can focus attention on more important things. Our habits determine most of what we do daily. They are the key to successful task management, which helps us keep from procrastinating.
Remember, good results come from good habits.
But making a change can feel daunting. The book Atomic Habits by James Clear includes a comprehensive guide on how to change your habits and get better at your new habit each day. By scaling our large goals into small, attainable amounts, we can create powerful results.
“Habits are not a finish line to be crossed, they are a lifestyle to be lived.” – James Clear
Think about your habits. Mentally fill in the blank to these questions:
- The old habit I want to change, or break, is: ______________________
- The new habit I want to build is: __________________________________
Are you ready to establish better habits? Here are eight strategies to do so:
- Identify the habit you want to change.
- Carefully define the new habit you wish to build.
- Begin the new behavior as strongly as possible.
- Change your environment as necessary.
- Maintain momentum until the new habit is firmly established.
- Visualize the process, not the results.
- Ask other people to help you change; get them involved.
- When you think about quitting, remember why you started!
In his book, James Clear makes another great point.
We should work to program our brains. Instead of thinking, “I have to do something,” say to yourself, “I get to do this!”
This simple switch can reframe your mental approach and help you see the habits you want to change as opportunities, rather than burdens.
And remember, you don’t have to start big… you just have to start!