Forming Healthy Habits
You can change your habits without obsessing about them by focusing on your environment and rituals. Let me explain.
Life is all about habits. Both success and failure are formed by our habits. Repetition is the primary way we learn. We become the things we do repetitively — these are our habits.
Growth: We build habits to achieve goals. This is how we get better at anything — try, try, try again. The more we practise, the more our success. How many times has your favourite AFL player kicked a footy? hundreds of thousands of times, no doubt. Likewise: catching, bouncing, passing and running. That’s why they are professionals!
Stagnation: We also form habits of ease or comfort. They make us feel safe. If it makes me happy, I do it. If it relaxes me, I do it. If I do it repeatedly, a habit forms and can be hard to change. Selfish habits can lead to poor relationships or poor health.
The easiest way to change a bad habit is to form a new one to replace it.
The easiest way to form a new habit is to change your environment.
Take Footy/Xbox for example: If you want to spend more time practising footy skills, spend more time on an oval with friends and a ball. It’s hard to play Xbox or watch TV on an oval. So, spending more time on an oval changes two habits — replacing one with the other — by changing the environment.
Another way to successfully change a habit is to combine it with a ritual you enjoy. Time with a friend/partner/child. A trip to the shops. Going out for coffee. Driving.
Use your rituals to build better habits:
What more exercise? Park further from the shops — or walk from home.
Want to read more? Take a book to a coffee house and switch your phone off.
Want to learn something new? Listen to an audiobook while driving.
Want to run/walk regularly? Ask your friend/partner/child to join you.
Mythologist Joseph Campbell is best known for his statement: ‘follow your bliss’ — an invitation taken to heart by many young people seeking life’s purpose. Near the end of his life, Campbell quipped, ‘I wish I’d said follow your blisters.’ He’d learned, as we all do, that our time-worn habits are what shape our greatest attributes.
Most people hate changing habits. Focusing on the habit itself can be overwhelming and disheartening. But, choosing our environment and strengthening our rituals can be fun and will cause habits to fall into place without hardly thinking about them.