How to Create and Break a Habit

In previous articles we have discussed why creating a habit is critical to the attainment of anything substantial in your life. Our genetics are designed in a way that allow us to operate on autopilot without putting much effort into the task at hand. Have you ever been driving a car only to come to the realization that you weren’t paying attention to your driving? Or perhaps you were in the midst of a conversation only to realize that you have not been listening to what the other person was saying.

Many of us experience these feelings of detachment throughout our day and it all comes back to the habits that we have formed in our mind. Habits are neither good nor bad in the grand scheme of things. Rather, they are the body operating in the manner in which it feels it needs to in order to alleviate stress or anxiety about any situation. This auto pilot mindset allows you to sit back and relax while the natural impulses take over for you. It also creates a problem in that it removes your awareness from your actions and puts you in a sedated state of mind.

However, the true talent that successful people have is diverting that autopilot habit into one that benefits them rather than holding them back. In this article you will learn the methods that break habits and the tactics to shift them onto a productive task.

Executive Control Over Your Actions

When you first start out on the journey to shift or break your habits, you will inevitably run into resistance. The brain likes the current way of performing tasks and doesn’t have long term thinking wired into it’s operations. The key here is to fight against yourself over and over again in order to break the walls down that are holding you back from what you truly want to do.

For example, if you are a person who watches too much television or browses forums all day, tackle the problem head on. You may fail in the beginning and slip back into the old habit – this is common. The vital tactic to harness is the ability to come back to the problem again and nip it in the bud. The good news is that the beginning battles and struggles you encounter are the hardest part of this equation. The daunting feelings of anxiety and regret are the strongest at this point and will fade away as you move along. If you can stick through the beginning phase of the habit changing process, it only gets easier!

Action Steps:

  • Identify the habit you wish to break
  • Commit to fighting against the natural impulse to perform that habit
  • Perform a new task you wish to replace the old habit with
  • You may fail here, but the key is to come back again and again
  • Realize that this is the hardest step; it only gets easier from here

Burn the Ships – No Return!

Captain Hernan Cortes landed in Veracruz in the year of 1519 with the goal of conquering and controlling the land. When they arrived, Cortes ordered his men to burn down the ships and seal their fate. This scared the men – what were they going to do if they had to retreat? It also gave them only one mode for survival – complete and total domination!

This style of thinking needs to be applied when trying to change your life and your habits for the better. If you have websites that eat up valuable time, permanently block them! Here is a tutorial on how to permanently delete those websites from your life and your habitual visits.

Similarly, if your vice is that of watching too much television or being glued to movies all day, get rid of your cable package. This step is where most people will fail merely because of the weight that their habit has in their mind. Habits are just as much physical as they are psychological in terms of their strength. “What will I do if I don’t have my television? What else am I going to do with my free time?”

The disconnect comes when we associate our bad habit with being the only thing that we could be performing at any given moment. Habits don’t go away – they shift on to something else. As stated earlier, habits are completely indifferent to where the energy is being output by the individual. A habit can be just as easy to perform on a task like reading a book or writing an article as it is with watching television or browsing YouTube for 12 hours.

Action Steps:

  • Cut the main source of power to the habit that is holding you back
  • Put yourself in a position where coming back to the habit is impossible
  • Realize that habits are not broken, they are shifted to another area
  • Be aware that habits are indifferent in the task they’re concentrated on
  • Replace the time spent on the old habit with something beneficial to you

Repetition

Once you have completed the 2 aforementioned steps, it’s time to make them concrete and permanent. The way that you make your new habit one that will stick around for more than a few weeks is by beating it to death. No, not with a baseball bat and a fit of anger; but with the obsessive performance of repetition.

Just when you think that you can’t possibly commit to the new habit anymore – keep going! This is when your old habit is at it’s weakest, in the moment when you feel the pain of performing your new habit. Just like in the gym, we experience the most muscle growth in the moments of extreme fatigue and discomfort; the body is forced to grow rather it wants to or not!

Always go above and beyond the expectations that you set out with when you first started your new habit. For example, if you replaced television with 1 hour of reading, read for 1 hour and 5 minutes instead. That last 5 minutes that goes above your previous expectations is where you will experience the most growth towards your new habit. You will undoubtedly hear that inner voice kick in right at the 1 hour mark trying to get you to stop. “Come on! We made a promise to go for 60 minutes, isn’t that enough!? Why are we going for an extra 5 minutes anyway? It’s not like it’s going to really make a difference. Let’s do this tomorrow instead!”

All of this inner dialogue is coming from the old habit trying to reel you back into comfort. You need to realize that this voice is coming from the weaker form of yourself that does not want to change or make any progress. When this happens, revert back to step 1 and fight back against this inner voice. Battle in that moment to grow your mental muscle to be stronger the next day. The growth and permanence occurs when you claw and kick against your inner conflict and come out as the victor.

Action Steps:

  • Repeat the new action over and over again
  • Set a goal of performing the new action and go above and beyond the initial target
  • Realize that the most growth comes when you leave your comfort zone
  • Ignore the inner voice that tells you to stop or that it’s not worth it
  • Fight back and conquer that inner monologue to become stronger

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