A key cornerstone to success in any endeavor is developing strong and healthy, rituals, routines and habits.
What is habit?
A habit is a routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously. They are rituals and behaviors we perform automatically to carry out essential activities.
Almost all habits begin with a “cue or trigger” to satisfy a craving, there’s then a response followed by a reward.
Brushing your teeth is a habit, getting dressed the same way is a habit, reaching for you phone when your bored or not engaged is a habit. The ways in which we think and process information, especially difficult or uncomfortable information are also habits. This means something like discipline is a habit. Hard work and dedication are also habits. Persistence, perseverance and grit could all be defined as habits. Quitting is also a habit. Making excuses like your to busy or to tired are habits. Any self-talk can be defined as a behavior or habit.
How to create change
With any habits we are looking to create or change the trick is to recognize the trigger for that habit.
For example, I set aside 10-15min each night to do some basic soft tissue work, for me the trigger to do this is putting on a movie or TV series. The trigger or cue itself doesn’t have to be something grandiose or extravagant, in fact something simple and consistent in your day to day routine in many cases is the most effective method.
The same principles would apply to those less desirable habits that we are looking to change.
For example, perhaps you have the poor habit first thing in the morning of grabbing for the phone and checking social media or your messages to confirm that nobody has actually messaged you at 3am for the 700th straight night. A better habit might be to focus on something like your hydration with some glasses of water and squeezed lemon, adding a pinch of salt in there for those trace minerals and to help the body hold onto that water. (look to an earlier blog about the importance of hydration)
First, we need to acknowledge the habit we are looking at changing. Secondly, we would need to identify the cue that sets off the undesirable habit. From there we can look to change or alter the cue for that habit. In some cases, you may not need to change the trigger, just being aware of it will create the change, in some more stubborn instances you may need to create an alternative cue for the new habit. It will take some persistence at sticking with the change in behavior, but over time this will become your default pattern. As a result of your new behaviors you may notice it has a carry-on affect to further, healthier habits.
Moving Forward with it
This approach can be applied to anything you have a desire to change. Maybe its noticing you want to drop the bar and creating a new habit of doing one more rep. Perhaps you recognize that on runs you really struggle to handle the discomfort and so you create behaviors of persisting through the discomfort.
We all struggle with motivation and our state of mind at some stage, but it’s our habits that can keep us grounded. They provide a set point in which our brain and body can recognize as something safe, comfortable and consistent.
We must be in the habit of positive self-talk. We must have behaviors that allow us acts of valor. We must recognize the triggers for our negative habits and be uncompromising in changing them. We must choose to be better because we can.
Awareness precedes change. Pay attention, be fastidious with all you do and be on the lookout for what is triggering those unhealthy thoughts and habits. You can dissect and begin to change any habit you become aware of. Something as simple as tying your shoes could make all the difference.