Remember struggling to come out of some habits? Yes, it is difficult to break habits, particularly those we have nurtured for a long time.
Repetition creates habits. Any sport is nothing but developing habits, though we call them skills. When you practice, you are trying to develop habits (skill): of throwing the ball to a certain target, of hitting a ball in a certain way, of running faster to beat the clock, and so on.
It can also be said in a different way – you are trying to improve your mind-body coordination. So, you have to repeat it again and again. It develops muscle memory – your muscles learn, for example, how to grip the pencil, hold the tennis racket, or throw the ball to achieve a certain result. You train yourself well so that you can do it again any time without thinking about it. Therefore, training is nothing but developing habits.
More importantly, you train your brain – it is a known fact that neural pathways grow in size and strength with repetition. Your performance depends upon how good is your mind-body coordination.
Here’s my top 5 list of the most common habits:
- Being late
- Over reacting to criticism
- Hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock
Not just the physical training, emotional habits are also created by repeated actions. This takes the form of what is called a stimulus-response pattern. Every time you laugh in a certain way, your boyfriend gives an encouraging response. Result: you tend to smile more that way when he is around. This is the result of positive feedback.
Smoking is another typical example, you feel stressed and light a cigarette. The nicotine gives you a momentary “high” and you feel more in control and the stress level lowers or goes away. You don’t like a certain person; whenever you see him you feel annoyed, so you begin to avoid him. Do it a few times and chances are high that you will begin hating him. An example of negative feedback.
When habits are healthy there is no problem. Healthy habits are those that are benevolent and don’t hurt any one. For example, talking politely, exercising regularly, etc. Bad habits are always problem, for instance, losing temper, gossiping, impolite manners, and so on.
So what can you do about them?
Breaking the Habit
There are 6 steps to breaking a habit.
- Recognizing the pattern of the habit.
- Analyze the habit, try to see how it is harming you, and why you want to change it.
- Develop awareness toward this habit and the situation(s) when it is manifested.
- Figure out what your new response will be in such situations.
- Create or invite the situation and practice your new response.
- Repeat the step 5 until you feel satisfied.
This 6 step formula should help in breaking most bad habits. To make the process more effective focus on the 3rd step – the more intense your awareness is the faster results will see. Remember, Self-Awareness is the Key to Breaking Bad Habits.