Whenever someone is looking to make improvements in their life personally and professionally, we all understand the basic concept starts with our habits or lack of. Changing our behavior to add or get rid of bad behaviors is one of those seemingly elusive things like unicorns and pots of gold at the end of a rainbow. Well, maybe not that elusive but for some of us, it seems pretty apt.
So if it is so elusive how can we successfully change our behavior to be a better person, to lose that weight we no longer want, to accomplish more in the day, to stop drinking so much soda, or whatever it is in our lives that is holding us back from being the best version of ourselves?
I would like to think while I am not ancient that I have been around enough gaining some pretty valuable insight on this topic as I have not only failed at this, (so I can talk on the what does not work) I have also been wildly successful to be able to help others by sharing what I have learned.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
Here are my top five tips for changing behavior both the do and do not of changing behavior to create successful habits. Starting with:
- Is it your want? No matter what behavior you are wanting to add or remove it has to be what you want. What you ‘really’ want! Why I pick this as the #1 tip is because if it is not your true desire to make the change no matter how many amazing tips, I share it will not stick if you are not passionate about making the change. So, before tackling adding a new behavior that will eventually become a habit or removing a bad one make sure in your heart of hearts it is what ‘YOU’ want. If you keep hearing from those around you that you should be more patient, stop eating so many sweets, get more done in the day or some other thing to the point that you think this is something you should work on – ask yourself scale of 1-10, how much does it matter to you to make the change? If it is 8 or less, it is not a strong enough ‘why’ of yours to stick…
- Less is more. This is true in many things but most of all when making changes in our lives especially to our behaviors. If you are honestly wanting to make changes to better yourself, do not become so ambitious your sabotage yourself. Make a list of all the behaviors you want to add or remove and then pick the top five. Look over the top five and pick not the one you want the most, but the easiest one to do first. Why? You might be wondering if I am saying the best way to make a change that lasts is to make sure you have a powerful ‘why’ in it but then I am telling you do not pick the most powerful one first, what is wrong with this picture? The reason is that I want to set you up for success, and the easiest way to do that is to build your confidence, that you can make these changes in your life. That is done by succeeding!
- Be patient grasshopper. All good things take time. Even if it is easy to make a couple of the changes on your list for them to turn into habits it will take time. We do not gain anything worth its salt overnight. There are many research articles written on how long it takes to turn a new behavior into a habit, but truthfully even if I quoted the leading research articles on this subject, they would all differ. Why? The main reason is we are all unique and for some of us we can wake up one morning and stop smoking, for others no matter what we do our behavior does not change. You ultimately will decide the length of time required and a big part of it has to do with how strong your ‘why’ is. For the sake of setting goals until you figure out your time needs, start with doing (or not doing) the behavior for 90-days.
“Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.” ― Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
- Make a plan. All successful endeavors require a well written and followed plan. In your plan, write down a start date. Make it a week or two from the date you start writing out the plan. When you start right away (like today), you are not giving the plan the seriousness it deserves. When you have a “Quit Date” or “Start Date”, it gives that date power and air of significance. In your plan write down all your obstacles and what situations trigger your current habit if you are removing a habit. For example, if it is smoking or diet habit, triggers might include waking in the morning, having coffee, drinking alcohol, stressful meetings, going out with friends, not preplanning for meals, etc. Most habits have multiple triggers. Identify all of them and write them in your plan for a conscience reminder of what to avoid or strengthen your resolve around.
- Find an accountability partner. This is usually not your best friend unless they are the type to tell you the brutal truth. Why? Because when you slip they will usually want to be nice and say things like, “It is okay”, or “I understand, just keep trying” or worse “Do not worry about it, you are great the way you are.” While that may sound nice if you are honestly wanting to level up in life and be your best self, these niceties will hold you back. We all need to make changes – keep evolving – growing. You need to find someone with a spine, probably someone that is further up the entrepreneur chain than you are, someone that when you slip they tell you to get back on track and help you figure out what triggered the lapse so you can avoid it.
Have rewards for milestones set in place the greater the milestone the greater the reward and yes, I am not above bribing. Just keep the rewards healthy and realistic. You do not want to reward yourself for losing weight by eating cake or for keeping to your goal for one or two weeks with a cruise.
Remember, if it was easy you would have already done it! Do not give up. Stay positive. You will have negative thoughts — the important thing is to realize when you’re having them, and push them out of your head. Squash them like a bug! Then replace them with a positive thought. “I can do this! I am a lion”!