Changing something in your life start with changing your daily habits. Learn what the habit system is, what it takes to change your habits and how to keep it consistent.
We all heard someone saying something like “I’ve always been like this. It’s in my family genes, I can’t change who I am.” On the other side, we might have heard, “I’ve changed my life completely. It’s a new me.”
The big word is change, some people are doing it and others can’t even imagine it in their minds. Why and how do we change? Is that even possible? Can we change after living our entire life doing the familiar thing?
During the last couple of years, I realized the need to change certain aspects of my life, personally and professionally. I had an idea of what “happiness” looks like, but didn’t know exactly how to start or what to do first! So I started to research the process of “change” and by change I mean changing the mindset, changing how to frame certain situations.
In this article, I give an overview of what I’ve learned, from the simple perspective of changing daily habits. I’ll briefly explain what a habit is and then, what’s the process of changing the habits. I’ll also break-down some tips on how to actually start the process of change.
Why do people change?
Change is a powerful concept. It means becoming or making something completely different than what you believed or are used in doing it.
I would like to think that people change due to joy or inspiration but unfortunately, people change due to a certain trauma in their lives. People wait for suffering to appear in order to acknowledge that something is wrong.
Change means a shift from the” old you” to the “new you”, from the familiar to the unfamiliar way of thinking and doing.
The rock-bottom is a good motivator, it’s the wake-up call. A crisis such as a disease, a loss of a close person, a tragedy like an accident, loss of financial, these are scary events because it comes with great fear. Then all of a sudden, the entire world turns upside-down: health, family, relationships, career and of course the future it gets shadowy.
Therefore, great change starts with pain, it may be physical or emotional, but there’s some kind of suffering.
What is the process of change?
Before starting the process of change you first must start to know what to change. Start by being honest with yourself and acknowledge the things which are not working, acknowledge that there are problems that don’t just go away.
There’s a reason for our problems and that is our unhealthy lifestyle, made up of all the habits along every single day.
All our daily actions, all our thoughts, and even our emotions have a habit-system routed in our minds.
Therefore, the process of changing simply means:
- Recognize the routine of unhealthy behaviors, be yourself-observer of what’s wrong
- Decide to stop the unhealthy lifestyle, to begin a new healthy life
- Replace the old unhealthy habits with new healthy habits
This process does sound like a simple process, just a 3-step process, but in fact, it may take some time (months or years), depending on each person’s drive or willingness to move to a new life.
So before going into any practical advice let’s first understand the general standpoint of habits. Why? Because our lives it’s a sum of daily habits.
Habits and Change-process
The notion of habit is a common topic among philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience. It has been studied from different angles such as human behavior, cognitive process, habits as learning, habits as practice, good and bad habits or just neutral habits.
Generally speaking, a habit is a pattern that an individual has throughout his lifetime. These patterns are an automatic routine of behavior such as actions, beliefs, thoughts, and emotions.
Habits are created through long-term repetition and exposure, and are rooted in the subconscious mind. This simply means: habits are unconscious! Are the autopilot mode of the brain.
Old habits are hard to break down because they are hard-wired in the neural pathways where the habit-info is persistent due to long time repetition.
However, our brain is flexible, it can change and adapt as a result of new experiences, the phenomenon is known as brain plasticity. The subconscious mind can be reprogrammed with new habits.
This process is called unwiring the old system or rewiring the new system.
Our mind can be reprogrammed in creating a new healthy autopilot system. But, this time through a conscious process of habits.
The trick is to consciously repeat your new desired behavior, action and thought until you’re overwriting the old habit with a new habit.
Therefore, the process of breaking bad habits is not always easy but is not either impossible. It requires patience and a lot of conscious hard work.
Five-tips on how to build new habits
As I was saying earlier. The process of building new habits is the process of identifying old habits and replacing them with new habits. The key is not to ignore or erase the old habit, but to identify the pattern, identify the trigger of that behavior and understand how to act according to it.
Let me share with you, 5 good tips for creating new habits. I would say these 5 tips are for building the initial discipline that you need to get started in your change.
Tip #1. The self-realization (the old you)
I have to strongly re-emphasize that the process of building a new habit must start with some simple questions. Without this reflection and acknowledgment of what needs to be changed or at least improved, there’s nothing to build further. Why change something if there’s no problem, right?
You can do this acknowledgment by simply asking yourself a couple of honest questions. I hope it helps to figure out what needs to change.
Honestly ask yourself, “Who is the type of person that I could become???”
- How in shape/out of shape are you? (your health)
- Do you have/do you lack energy throughout the day? (your health)
- How successful/unsuccessful are you? (your work)
- Do you feel inspired/uninspired? (your work)
- How happy/unhappy are you? (your life in general)
- Do you have an ideal image of yourself? (your life in general)
- How meaningful/meaningless are your personal relationships? (your life in general)
Tip #2. Build new habits
Unfortunately, many people are trying but not succeeding. They gave up in a couple of weeks or so. Why’s that? Because they don’t understand how the old bad habits are structured and then, they do too much too soon without patience.
Psychology says it takes about 3 weeks to build a new habit and about 3 months to build a lifestyle. I believe the truth it’s relative, and it depends on person to person, to habit, to each one’s will.
My advice is to be at least 30-days daily committed before making any bad assumption that you can’t change a thing.
So what are you supposed to do?
- Setup small daily goals so you can’t fail them. Every single day do the same thing in order to gain consistency. It may look insignificant per day, but multiply it by 365 days per year it becomes a mastery. For example: “Before bedtime, I take 15 minutes to read something about the thing that passionate me” or, “After work, I’ll walk every day for 15 minutes.”
- Setup weekly milestones with a progressive approach. Don’t set up overwhelming goals that are hard to follow, don’t make it look impossible. Why? Because you’re under the learning process and you’re lacking the experience. But instead, make it fun and challenging, set up weekly milestones which automatically become monthly milestones and then, year goals. For example: “Every weekend I go for a walk on a street I’ve never walked on” or, “Every weekend I cook a new healthy recipe”.
- Have patience, you’re building in the long term. You are building a new life and it takes time. You’re playing the long game now, the game of the rest of your life so be patient and go at a sustainable and engageable pace.
Tip #3. Don’t skip twice on the new habits
You must understand that in order to create something, in this case, new habits, therefore, a new healthy life, it takes time and conscious effort. It’s a progressive process of learning and then a process of repeating it.
In the beginning, there’s a possibility to slip on the new habits. And that’s ok.
What‘s not ok is not to be aware of this! It’s not ok to not to get back on track immediately so you don’t miss it twice in a row. It may be a healthy meal, it may be a workout, it may be a meditation practice, it doesn’t matter just don’t fall into the trap of procrastination.
It’s more important to stay consistent and not miss a micro-commitment like a daily practice than to hit a specific monthly-milestone.
Tip #4. Create personal accountability
To stick with the new routine and to always be committed, you must track your efforts and your personal results. You have to look back and check your progress in order to actually “see” it!
Look at the lessons you’ve learned, on the long path you’ve left behind. It will empower you to do even more of the extra effort because you’re on the right track. It’s rewarding already!
How to do so? Here are some ideas.
- Keep a journal. It doesn’t have to be a daily journal but it can easily be a weekly one.
- Use a pedometer. Track your daily walk or workout. Check your stats.
- Take photos. Regularly take a photo with your phone on how you look, places you go, what you eat. It helps you become more aware of what and how you do the things you do.
- Share on social media. Post your progress on social media and never underestimate the power of social approval.
Tip #5. Shape your new identity (the new you)
I hope that by now you realized that changing habits actually means much more than setting up some goals. It means changing yourself as a person because you’re changing your mindset.
Really, it means changing your mindset.
But how do you stay on track with this one? How do you stay on track in the long term? Your identity? Your lifestyle?
The answer is “people”!
Look to be in the company of people that uplift you and inspire you to be better. Look for people that share the same experiences and struggles as you are. They may have found a way to overcome it. I really recommend watching interviews with people that break through their lives, for example just to name a few online shows: Impact Theory, London Real or Lewis Howes Show.
- Our life is a sum of daily habits (actions, beliefs, thoughts, and emotions).
- Habits are rooted in the subconscious mind and are the autopilot system of the brain.
- Changing daily habits means changing your entire life.
- Changing must start with self-realization and acknowledgment of what is not working in your life.
- Changing is the process of unlearning the old and learning the new.
- The human brain never stops adapting and changing in response to learning.
- Setup small daily new habits so you can’t fail them.
- Consistency and repetition is the key to making new habits to stick.
- Always look back and check your progress in order to actually “see” it.
- Look for people that inspire you, that shares the same experiences and struggles as you are.
We all want something better in our lives, right? to be healthier, to be more creative, to better skilled, to have a more engaging job, to be a better partner? To be more adventurous?
We all want to change something for a better future!
In fact, it is not about how hard the process of change is. It is not even about what kind of change we desire. It’s all about how important is the goal for us, as an individual.
It’s about the daily choices we make as a series of micro-commitment. So be patient and remember to play the long game with always conscious decisions.
As Aristotle once said – ”We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit”
- Joe Dispenza – Can you change your brain by thinking differently.
- Sarah McKay. Neuroscience Insight – How to Break Bad Habits.
- James Clear – Identity Based Habits. How to Actually Stick to Your Goals This Year.
- José Lombo, José Giménez-Amaya – The unity and the stability of human behavior. An interdisciplinary approach to habits between philosophy and neuroscience.