You get to make the choice each day whether to improve or sabotage yourself
By Lorraine Morris
“You are your habits. We become what we repeatedly do” — Stephen Covey
Our lives are the sum of all our habits the good, bad, and ugly… so why not join me over the next few weeks as we unpack how to keep the habits that keep us happy, successful and get rid of the habits that steal our time and keep us procrastinating…
Over the past few months, I have been working with individuals and teams develop habits that will make them the person that they have always envisioned themselves to be. So let us start by defining what is a Habit?
It is an automatic behavior that has been wired into our brains through repetition and as days pass, we begin to perform that behavior less consciously.
Think about it in this way once a neural pathway in the brain has been established it is hardwired and never goes away, let me take you back to your toddler years to explain this, when you started walking as a toddler, for instance, you took one step at a time, fell down at times but eventually you became faster at walking and running and your parents just couldn’t keep up because the habit of walking had become so repetitive in you and so easy to do.
Up until now, the only time that you may find it difficult to perform the task of walking is if you work out after a long time and feel some aches etc, or if you are ill, recovering from surgery, an accident etc.
Habits are great for us for the following reason, we have a limited bucket of resources for activities like decision making, planning, prioritising so when we create habits, we give our prefrontal cortex the capacity to focus on energy-hungry tasks as I mentioned earlier.
Did you know that your prefrontal cortex is the new part of your brain? So to keep up with the day-to-day demands we subject it to let us make sure that we dedicate it to something more important than just a mental shortcut.
I like the way James Clear in Atomic Habits explains Habits, he says “A Habit is a compound interest of self-improvement”, I would like to add to this definition and say, “A habit is a compound interest of self-improvement or self-sabotage”, you get to make the choice each day whether to improve or sabotage yourself… so which will you choose?
I have mentioned that to build a habit one has to do so through learning and repetition.
To have developed a habit in pursuit of a goal, be it the goal of driving your own car, buying your own house, becoming fit etc, it all begins by participating in a cycle that begins with a cue which is a behavioral response that help meet the goal, this then leads to becoming motivated to achieve that goal by changing one’s routine and finally enjoying the result/reward of the given goal.
So, let us look at this in an example, having been working from home since the beginning of Covid last year, I had to take sometime out to do a habit inventory to check and see what habits are still good, what habits are bad and ugly and what habits remain as neutral.
What I found was I had not veered too far away from my routine pre-covid but there was one habit I had picked up which was not too good for my health.
It was the habit of going to the kitchen and reaching out for cups and cups of sugary milk tea and so I had to look at how to get rid of this habit and it began by first getting to understand the reason behind this.
It turned out that the cue for going to the kitchen often was when I felt a little bored with the task I was doing, I would then be motivated to go to the kitchen and make a cup of sugary milk tea, once I had drunk the tea, I would then feel a sense of reward and go back to my task and continue with work for another few hours.
As I continued to reflect and get to the bottom of this, I realised that the real driver of this habit was that I missed being in the office and having to go into the office kitchen where I would socially engage with others which was really the reward I was looking for.
So, to rid the habit of having too many cups of sugary tea each time I felt the need to engage etc, I began to still take the walk to my kitchen but instead of reaching for that cup of tea, reach for a cup of herbal tea instead and take my phone with to call or message a colleague to check in on them.
That way I still had a warm beverage and got the opportunity to feel a sense of belonging with my team.
So, what tips do I leave you with this week to form new habits and rid yourself of habits that are not beneficial for you:
1. Decide on what goal you are wanting to work on, ensure that it is an identity-based change e.g. I am a writer (that’s an identity-based change, I’m not saying I am trying to be a writer for this newspaper)
2. Create a habit inventory for yourself, you can do this by writing down your daily routine and for each routine, give yourself a +, -or an = sign e.g., waking up and making my bed + (good habit), answering my WhatsApp messages straight after – (bad habit), brushing my teeth = (neutral habit).
3. Once you have created your inventory, ask yourself does that habit make you the person you have always envisioned yourself to be or not?
Remember you design your world, so you need to ensure that you are aware of your habits, and which make you better and which pull you back.
We will continue this topic next week, so do not forget to keep the results of your inventory, we will surely build on what to do next.
Have a good week ahead, remember you can change only if you want to.
Lorraine Morris is Co-Founder Musikana Foundation – email@example.com Instagram @musikanafoundation. Revive and Thrive Hub – firstname.lastname@example.org Instagram @reviveandthrivehub. https://www.linkedin.com/company/revive-and-thrive-hub/