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Changing habits can make an enormous difference to the quality of our lives. Habits are extremely powerful – they influence the way that we conduct our lives in so many aspects, and the resulting happiness or dissatisfaction that we experience. Transforming habits that disempower us, hold us back, or drag us down is a key to living the happy and fulfilling lives that we want and deserve.
One of the most important areas that we need to focus on in changing habits is our thought patterns. Our habits of behavior stem from the thoughts that we have on a regular basis. In order to create change in behavioral habits, we need to go right to the source, and look first at changing habits of thought. If we can successfully create change in our thought patterns, we often find that the accompanying behaviors become transformed as a natural progression.
The following is a step-by-step process for changing habits.
Become aware that the habit is detracting from your wellbeing, and that changing habits would allow you to create more positive experiences.
Accept that the habit you have is something that was learned. It is not an innate part of you, but simply a pattern of behavior, and therefore it can be changed.
The next step in changing habits is to decide that you are willing to, and going to, replace the pattern of thought or behavior with a new and positive alternative.
Trying to change a habit simply by dropping it doesn’t work in most cases. This is because it leaves a vacuum which will usually be unconsciously filled with the old habit, or an equally unhelpful alternative. Replacing a habit with a positive thought or behavior that you would like to become a habit is a much more effective way of creating lasting and positive change.
Create the new alternative that you wish to use to replace the old habit.
Decide what you can do to create a new and uplifting habit. Plan what your new habit is going to be. If you want to change your habit of criticizing yourself, figure out in advance what you will use to replace the negative self-talk when you notice it arising. Try using an affirmation such as the following. “I am doing my best and my best is good enough. I am handling things very well under the circumstances, and I am getting better and better at handling these types of situations.”
While changing habits, be prepared to practice a lot before the new habit becomes ingrained.
From a purely rational and logical perspective, you can ask yourself how long you have been practicing the habit that you now wish to change. It is almost certainly not something that you only started doing yesterday. From this point of view, it is completely unrealistic to expect that you can unlearn a habit overnight that has taken you years of practice to instill.
On the other hand, don’t let this scare you into thinking that it will take the same length of time to replace your old habit with a new and positive one as it took to create the negative habit. The difference is that you most likely did not create the old habit consciously, and with deliberate choice and commitment. Most negative habits are formed by a lack of conscious choice to do what we know will add to our happiness, and by allowing ourselves to simply slip into the unhealthy tendencies that are a very natural part of the human condition.
When you make a conscious decision and choose to create a habit that you truly want to have, changing habits can be done over a much shorter period of time than developing them unconsciously.
Be persistent and realistic about changing habits.
Know that it is going to take time to make your new habit an automatic part of your life, and that you are going to experience ups and downs. Decide not to give up, forgive yourself for slip-ups, and resolve to keep returning to the course you have set, no matter how many times you veer off it.
Expect yourself to slip into old patterns, and be prepared for how to handle it when you do.
When working on changing habits, it is not helpful to beat yourself up when you notice that you are automatically slipping into the pattern of behavior that you wish to change. In fact, paying too much attention to a habit simply reinforces it. Just notice that you have veered off course and firmly and gently correct your direction.
Keeping on track in changing habits can be best done by simply noticing what is happening – objectively. It can help to look at your habitual actions from the loving perspective of your Higher Self, and to simply see what is happening in the way that you would notice a cloud passing across the sky. This can help to avoid an emotional reaction of defensiveness and self-criticism that results from getting caught up in the fact that you are acting from habit.
Celebrate your progress, and notice the positive change rather than paying attention to setbacks.
Congratulate yourself for even one instance when you successfully applied your new habit. Know that if you did it once, you can do it again and again. Pay attention to how great it feels when you do practice your new habit, and how much better and better it will feel the more you apply it. Let the setbacks go. Refuse to pay attention to them, and firmly return your focus to what you want. Look back from time to time, and see how far you have come in your journey of changing habits and creating the thought patterns, beliefs, behaviors, and results that you truly want in your life.
Changing habits is not easy, but it is so important if we realize that there we are acting from habits that are preventing us from experiencing everything that we want in our lives. It takes a high level of awareness and commitment to truly make positive changes, but the results are worth it a million times over.
I also deeply want you to know, you do not have to do it alone. If you want to make changes in your habits that can affect every area of your life, but feel that you could use some guidance and support, I would be delighted to work with you in creating the positive new habits that can really open up the doors to the life you want to live. Personal life coaching can provide the teamwork, encouragement and back-up that can make all the difference in creating the changes you want to see in your life.