On the way to achieving our goals we need to break bad habits, create new positive habits and stick with them over time. But how can we replace a bad habit with a new one? How do we change something which we've gotten used to doing day after day? And how do we commit to a whole new behavior and stick with it over time?
We start by changing the way we think. Our actions then follow.
Here is our model for creating new habits, with 5 strategies for changing the way we think so that we can change the way we act:
- Use creative visualization and imagination to reprogram your mind. If common sense worked for everybody, we’d all be spending more time at the gym and less time on the couch. Most of us can’t “talk ourselves” into making a change by relying on facts and logic alone. We need to harness the creative power of the right side of our brain to reprogram the way we think. More simply put - use creative, emotional and visual tools to rewire your thoughts. Tools like mind maps, positive affirmations or a vision board are effective in creating new connections in our minds in a non-linear way that leads to a change from an emotional place. Another effective tool is visualizing what a typical day in your life would look like AFTER you've adopted the new habit you are working on.
- Change the story - tell yourself a new story about yourself. Stop telling yourself what you cannot do. Tell a new story, the story of how you can and you will. Identify your limiting beliefs and discard them. Gather up facts that prove the contrary (make them up if you have to!). Use these new found facts to create a new story about yourself. I used to tell myself and everyone around me that as the daughter of 2 bank employees who worked at the same workplace for many years, it is my destiny to be an employee for life. I could climb up the ladder or move from one company to another, but I will NEVER be an entrepreneur. It’s just not who I am. I don’t have it in me. This was my story. But it was also my limitation. When I realized how limiting this story is for pursuing my goals and dreams I had to start telling myself another story. I started gathering up “other” facts, ones that would support my new story. Like the fact my brother was an entrepreneur, so it’s not genes, is it? Or like the fact I keep coming up with product ideas, even though it’s not at all part of my day job. Or like the fact I’ve learned so much in my career I can now do this on my own. Little by little I had enough facts to tell myself a different story, allowing me to make the change and start my own business.
- Show up daily! Make goals a formal, daily process. If you think about goals only around New Year’s or if you write a 1-sentence goal down on a piece of paper and put it away in a drawer somewhere, you’re doing it wrong. Write down your goals daily, to reinforce your commitment to the process. Work with a goals planner and commit daily to making a true change. Use a habit tracker and check off the times you practice the new habit. Using a habit tracker regularly helps separate facts from fiction;-).
- Surround yourself with supportive people and things. Avoid anything and anyone that brings you down or belittles your efforts. Talk, listen and meet with the people who support you through the change or are going through a similar change of habits. If your goal is to lose weight and you decide to stop snacking on chips every night, don’t buy them and don’t welcome them into your home (the latter also goes for a friend that comes over with a bag of chips :-).
- Celebrate small and big accomplishments - did you go one day without smoking? Celebrate! One week of eating healthy? Celebrate! So what if you did not lose any weight? You’ve made a change and stuck with it! This calls for a celebration. Hug yourself, you deserve a hug! The mere acknowledgement of accomplishment sends our brain and our body a sense of capability, reinforcing to us the fact that we CAN make bigger changes. So celebrate your accomplishments.
Making a change towards a healthier lifestyle is not easy at first. But once you pass a certain threshold you’ll find a new-found motivation and self-belief that drive you, and the whole process becomes easier. This “threshold” is an elusive concept though, but I guarantee you it exists. It usually appears as a culmination of a visual change (seeing how these jeans feel a bit more comfortable all of a sudden), a physical implementation (like feeling physically bad after eating something that is not good for our body) and an environmental reaction that attracts to us people and things that makes us feel good.
To your health and happiness!