Roughly 95% of what we do on a daily basis is subconscious belief.
In other words, nearly all our actions are predetermined habits we have little to no control over… unless we bring awareness and take action to change them.
So let’s talk about habits a little bit. Where the bad habits often come from, how they can negatively impact our lives, and what we can do to work on creating new positive habits.
Where Bad Habits Come From
Many of our habits, good and bad, come from the early stages of child development. Most of what we do and how we think is called a subconscious belief system, which we absorb from the environment around us between the ages of zero and six.
Much of what we learn in those early years comes from our families, school, other people around us and our environment. We are being taught someone else’s belief system about how to interact with the world, and this creates new habits. And it’s totally fine if the habits that you’re learning are working for you, and promote a healthy sense of self. But for many of us, this is not the case.
For example, I have a client who expressed being highly critical of herself and everything she does. She goes out into the world, and finds she is critical there too: of her friends, of her work ethics, where she works, how she works. And that’s a habit that she has created.
This is just the way she learned, as a child, to relate unconsciously to the world around her. So in the process of shedding some light on that she quickly became clear about a very critical parent, and a very critical setup at home. How do you change that perspective, right?
If you grew up in a household where a set of rules were implemented, and you adapted those rules as being your own, what’s the fastest way to change those habits?
Step 1: Identify the Habit You Want to Change
First, you have to identify them. You have to discover where you may be making these unconscious decisions. That’s the first piece of work that I do with a client who wants to change bad habits.
But you need to go one step further than just identifying the habits you want to change. You need to identify what triggers the habit in the first place. This is imperative if you truly want to change the habit.
Habits follow four steps:
When I talk about trigger, I’m talking about what cues you to want to perform the habit (that’s the craving or urge you feel to follow through with it).
A simple example of this cycle is smoking. Oftentimes the cue is stress or anxiety, which triggers a craving to smoke, almost forcing you to respond by stepping outside to smoke… which provides the reward of nicotine relaxation.
Most people make the mistake of simply trying to change a bad habit without bringing consciousness or awareness to what triggers the habit in the first place, or what reward is provided by the habit. They just focus on “This is a bad habit. I want to change it.”
Once you’ve identified the cue that triggers your craving… then you can progress to changing the habit with Step 2.
Step 2: Implement New Routines
From there, you need to introduce new routines or thought patterns to replace the old one.
It’s often better to replace one habit with another one, so when you feel an itch to follow through with Habit 1 (the one you want to replace), it simply becomes the trigger for Habit 2 (the one you want).
One of the tools that I have found to be effective is attaching a new habit to something that you’re already doing. For example, when I wanted to incorporate daily vitamins, I made myself take them before I could have my daily coffee, a ritual I never miss.
The first 45 days or so, it is something you have to force yourself to remember. You have to create a situation in which you remember it, like my coffee. I made sure to keep the vitamins next to the coffee maker so that I would build a visual and habitual association between the two activities. After 45 days, it starts to become second nature, and after a few months of it, you will have created a new habit. And you can implement that idea in many places.
It’s a little bit easier when you’re dealing with something as tangible as eating a handful of vitamins.
When it comes to changing a thought pattern, one of the tools that I teach my clients who are struggling with negative self talk (I’m not good enough, smart enough, capable enough) is I tell them to say “thank you but no thank you”.
When the negative thought comes in, we say “thank you” to acknowledge the thought, and “no thank you” to begin to train our brain to pick new thoughts, and therefore new habits. In my experience, the negative thought patterns do begin to diminish, and newer more positive patterns can emerge.
Get Help Shifting Habits
It’s more than possible to shift habits on your own… but the work is much easier when you have support. Especially when you’re attempting to change habits you’ve had for years and years.
I’d love to support you as you grow, evolve, and shift your habits for the better. Contact me here to get started.