Did you know, we never lose our habits? They stay with us always. The good ones and the ones that don’t serve us so well anymore, the conscious and the unconscious.
Imagine a railway track that is no longer used. On the day it becomes obsolete, it is still functional and clear, but over time the rails get rusty, and the track becomes almost invisible from being overgrown with grass and weeds. This resembles our old habits.
When we decide to get rid of a bad habit, we often say ‘That’s it, I’m not going to … anymore!’. What we don’t do is give any thought as to what created those habits and patterns in the first place.
Charles Duhigg wrote a brilliant book – The Power of Habit, in which he explains how habits work. He presents a really easy way of understanding the process within our brain that involves a three-step loop.
CUE – ROUTINE – REWARD
The CUE is a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and choose a habit.
The ROUTINE is then played out, physically or mentally.
The REWARD helps your brain to decide if this particular loop is worth it.
When the same loop is repeated again and again, your brain stops participating in the decision making process and just plays the routine when the cue is triggered. This loop becomes automatic and your new habit is born.
Change the routine and the reward and you change the outcome – the habit.
Have you ever wondered why it feels like you worked so hard to make changes in your life, only to wake up one day and realise you fell off the wagon AGAIN!?
Unless you deliberately fight to change a habit and deliberately introduce a new loop, the pattern or routine will unfold automatically.
When we break down and understand the elements of the habit loop, we give ourselves a better chance of success in building a better or more beneficial one.
Because we are so driven by daily habits, we become wired to return to our best practiced one.
An alcoholic may abstain for years without touching a single drop only to relapse when they lose their job, and their marriage is in the toilet. The relapse is caused by the stress trigger and some will return to their old best practiced habit and coping mechanism – the bottle… while others wont.
This is why it is so important to understand our behaviors and the motivators behind our actions and to be proactive, continually reviewing and creating new habits.
Addicts or alcoholics who have abstained for long periods of time often continue to describe themselves as alcoholics/addicts or ‘recovering’. The ones that have achieved success, in this case sobriety, have come to a place of understanding and have taken the time to focus on the patterns that caused the habit.
At some point, they come to realise that the old habits no longer serve them or are actively destroying them and this better allows them to create new ones. Eventually, the old ones are no longer used.
The good news and the bad news is our habits are here to stay and we need them. They influence and shape every aspect of our lives from how we get up in the morning, to what we eat during the day, every activity we perform, right through to how we finish up before bedtime.
Becoming self-aware and having more good habits will benefit us and those around us.
Replacing old negative habits, improves our quality of life and moves us one step closer to ‘living the dream’.
Points to remember:
- Habits can be ignored, changed, or replaced.
- The most serious addicts can and do become sober.
- The most dysfunctional (people or businesses) can and do transform themselves.
- You are not in competition with anyone else. Your goal is to improve YOU by small deliberate actions.
It’s okay to fall off your wagon – learn from the experience, make a new decision and start again from where you are at.
What unproductive habits do you want to replace with better/positive ones?
New Year brings with it another permission to start again. Take out a clean sheet of paper and begin drawing a new picture of your life or aspects of it.
What do you want to create?
Which activities or habits energise you?
What will give you the most joy and make you feel alive?
What will bring you closer to figuring out your own life’s purpose?
How can you add the most value to others?
As you move into 2022, which habits and people will you take with you on your next adventures?
And who and which ones will you choose to be grateful for… but be brave enough to leave behind?
Dalya xx 💙