Friday, December 2, 2011

How to Create a Habit

createImage by suttonhoo via FlickrBy Danny L Churchill

Where do you want to be a year from now? How many times have you heard that question? How many times have you dreamed of the life you'll be living just 12 short months from now? We will not be in a different place one year from now if we don't do something different then we have always done.

Looking ahead one year, 365 days, and seeing yourself in a different, better, happier, life should be our constant target. But, where were you 365 days ago? One year ago today where were you in your life?

I am willing to go out on a limb here and say your life was virtually the same as it is today. You're not wanting, not liking, not happy with the life you live today and it being virtually unchanged from one year ago means that, like the rest of us, you've settled into a rut.

How do we get into these ruts? Habit! A habit, like a rut, is essentially a well-worn path. Applying that fact to our 'life rut' would mean that our thinking, and our actions, are making the same journey back and forth between this disempowering belief and that one, habitually. Back and forth, back and forth.

Creating the habit of avoiding the decisions and actions we need to change our lives and get out of our 'life rut'. We are buried under our own inertia, making hard for us to make any lasting changes. We know we should but our 'comfort zone' is, well, comfortable. We tell ourselves we will start tomorrow, but we have told ourselves that for years. This has, long ago, become our habitual way of living.

Habits form pretty well after having purposefully practiced it for 21 days in a row, (much less non-purposefully practiced them for years). You can't miss a day according to Maxwell Maltz who wrote the bestselling book Psycho-Cybernetics. We set a goal for 12 months, or 18 months, or 24 months and then pretend that we want/are making major change in our lives, but we're not.

Why do we spend so much energy avoiding our dreams? I don't know, but let's talk about one simple step we can take to begin fulfilling. It is a fairly simple step - create one new habit to replace each old habit. Our old habits have gotten us into this rut and our same old habits are the reasons we're still in this rut.

I'm going to explore a concept called the 1% change. Basically it states that making a lot of small changes over a period of time will create the life you want before you know it. Tackling a major project all at once, like changing your entire life, is too over whelming for most of us. But taking little steps, change a habit here, create a habit there, and before you know it we are well on our way.

First we need to understand how to create a habit. One of the simplest ways is to set aside several minutes EVERY day for 21 days IN A ROW to practice a new habit you want to create. You can't just stop doing a thing, it leaves a vacuum in your life/routine that has to be filled with something else. So instead of simply removing a bad habit from your life it works best to decide what you want in that part of your life instead.

For example: I want to stop eating some much candy in the evening while at home watching TV, or reading, or writing my blog. But I can't just stop eating the candy (dark chocolate covered almonds and cashews - Mmmm, slurp) it leaves a hole in my routine. So I replace it with something else. In my case it is strips of carrots and celery with some radishes and black olives dipped in homemade Buttermilk Ranch dressing (if you are thinking this is just as bad as candy consult Adkins).

So how do I go about creating this habit? First I stop at the store just to pick up the ingredients I need for the dressing, and to pick out the carrots, whole carrots to slice or baby carrots for convenience, celery and radishes, a good bunch of radishes, not too hot and a few cans of large black olives.

I will take the time to create several individual baggies of these veggies for convenience sake. I like my chocolate cold out of the fridge so it isn't a stretch to create a habit of grabbing a bag of veggies instead.

Having made the Ranch dressing for dipping I can either put it in a bowl, or even better pour a little in a serving size bag of veggies for convenience, again, similar to way I eat the candy. I spend a few minutes a day imagining this new habit and focusing on the things about the veggies that I like, the texture, taste, and Ranch dressing all over them, until I feel my mouth salivate.

I don't waste time thinking about how I am missing the candy, that would send mixed signals. I just concentrate on the veggies. Sometimes the candy will still make a cameo appearance in my imaginings but I just ignore it and like a pet you ignore it eventually wonders off on its own.

21 days to create a habit and its part of my routine. But I want to work a few areas of my life at the same time. So I give myself several days with each new habit I want to create before I adding another one. And because I am tackling up to 3 habits at a time I want them to be manageable, so I keep them small and easy. Small and easy is just another way of saying a 1% change at a time.

I am Danny L Churchill and I have made the commitment to improve my life in every way I can. I host an article/blog site called: exploring as many ways and means to accomplish this commitment as possible.

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