I have all sorts of lists, note cards, things posted on my bathroom mirror, and other devices to help make positive thinking, affirmations, and the right state of mind a habit.
Yet, I still struggle with it each day. I have often carried my notebook full of affirmations, note cards, visualizations and visions, and lists to and from work without even opening it. I think how often I shave and look in the mirror, leaning slightly left so that I don’t need to look at my Questions of Power, which are there to start my mind correctly each morning. Below that list is a short version of a visualization exercise, one that I shared on one of the first blogs on this site.
I confess that I am not consistent and I don’t have a great habit of doing it all each day. I know that I need to wake up and generate positive, upbeat emotions. I should do pushups, jog, stretch, meditate or exercise. Sometimes I do.
All we can do is try, right? True.
We need to build a habit. From reading the book mentioned above, I have learned how some things help and hurt habit building. A habit starts with a cue. Something may trigger or cue us. We then move into the habit or whatever it is that we do/eat/avoid/etc. We then get the reward. If we eat a few cookies each day around 2pm, the reward is the craving and the sweet taste of the sugary snack, and the fat and tasty stuff there. Or is it? Maybe you get bored. Maybe you crave other people’s company and you wander into the cafeteria where you see others and have a quick chat. Make sure you really know what the reward is.
What is the cue? This is key. If you can discover what the cue is – what triggers your craving/desire/addiction, then this is a huge step. When you realize the cue, you can replace the behavior. The book suggests that it is much harder to simply remove the behavior or habit. It also suggests that it is almost impossible to remove a habit if you try to simply remove a reward.
So let’s take the cookie example. You need to replace the cookie with something instead. Let’s say you get that 2pm cue – from whatever. Can you take a walk outside? Write in a journal? Eat an apple? Eat a protein bar? Go chat with friends without a cookie? The book suggests that you actually try different things to replace the cookie eating. Try all things over a period of time and see what works. You need to replace the behavior or action with something else. You need to still have that reward there – maybe it is the interaction with others, maybe it is some kind of snack. Often we won’t know until we try and it may take a little testing or experimenting.
Good news, the book suggests that once you can ‘replace’ or rebuild a habit once, it seems that we can all gain momentum and rebuild other things well. Once we learn that we can cut back on the cookies and replace that with something else – and we still feel fine and get some kind of reward, then it is often easy for us to move on to other habits. The book talks about how people have had successes, often small at first, compound and move into other aspects of their lives.
So start small. Look for the cue, the behavior/habit, and the reward. Remember the reward may not always be what you think. Test a replacement. When the cue comes up again, try different behaviors that produce some sort of reward. The awareness alone helps, the replacement behavior helps, and the replacement reward should help you keep going ahead. (Focus on what you have here now what you’re missing out on…)
Tell me about your habits and your successes.