Once you figure out how habits are formed, how they work, then you can learn how to change them.
On January 1, many resolved:
• To lose 10 lbs.
• Eat healthier and work out more
• Do a better job of managing time
• To stay connected to people who are important to them
When we make our New Year’s resolutions, we are saying we want to change our habits. How do we do that past February? Once you figure out how habits are formed, how they work, then you can learn how to change them.
I’ve been reading a book (recommended to me by Katie Barnes) called Power of Habit, by Charles DuHigg. He says that habits are made up of a trigger, a routine, and a reward. Once a habit is embedded into our brains, it influences how we act – even when we don’t realize it. Many advertisers and retailers are well aware of our habits and take great advantage. Haven’t you received notices making recommendations on what you might like to wear, read, see, eat, etc.? Advertisers know that the cravings drive the habit loop from the cue to the routine to the reward.
So how do we change the bad craving to new cravings? First and foremost, you have to commit. You have to really want to change a habit. None of this, “After I lose 10 lbs, I’m going to go back to my old eating habits.” Otherwise, next year, the 10 lbs will be back on the resolution list. I had a friend who was a smoker and quite overweight in college. He wanted to lose some weight and to stop smoking. He decided to start walking every time he got the urge to smoke or eat. The walk around the block soon became two blocks. Pretty soon he was jogging. Then he started running in 5K races and then in marathons. Later he started a company that organized sanctioned races throughout Colorado. First he had to make the commitment to change. Then he had to change the old cravings and develop a new routine and new reward.
What about the resolution to do a better job of managing time? What are the trigger, routine and reward?
The trigger is the commitment to manage time throughout your daily life – home, work and play. The craving is to have more control in your life and more time to do the things you love. The trigger or cue has got to make you want to feel competent and really good about yourself.
Start with small steps so not to overwhelm yourself. For instance, start your day with all the tools you’re going to need in order to better manage your time. Maybe you make your list the night before, so you’re ready to go first thing in the morning. Start a new routine.
Don’t make a list of 12 things that need to be done. Start with 2 or 3. Or make your list then group them into areas of similarity. Add to your list as you get used to managing your time more efficiently. It’s been documented that it usually takes 45 days of doing something different to trigger your brain into a new habit.
Don’t beat yourself up if you go off the wagon. Ask yourself what sparks that new craving? Knowing how to spark that craving is key to creating a new habit. Your reward will be to have everything you wanted.
Another way that I make New Year’s resolutions is to pick a word for the year. For last year and this year, my word is “Courage”. For me, it means that I will try to have the courage to take new risks… doing something I’ve never done before, taking a different route, exploring new adventures, speaking out, having difficult discussions. It means doing things that are out of my comfort zone and maybe learning a few new things about myself and about the world of which I am a part.
What are your resolutions? What is your word for the year? Let me know how it goes.
- Roz Schneider-Barhaugh (retired partner of BRS)
Posted on January 23, 2015 at 01:34pmcomments powered by Disqus