Is Developing New Habits Your Hidden Personal Growth Superpower?
Aug 06, 2022
(Photo by Andres Ayrton)
You do it all the time, but you might not even notice
Developing or changing your habits can sound intimidating or difficult. Chances are that you have probably never declared, "I am about to change a habit". This is because it doesn't have to be a ground-shaking change.
Have you ever changed your route somewhere because you found a quicker way? Or performed a work task in a different way to conform with a policy change? These are both examples of altering your habits.
One would be a choice that you made, and one was outside of your control. Either way, you may not have even recognized that you have made a habit change.
Looking at your current habits
Think about the last time that you had to change something about a process at work or school. At first you probably had to pay very close attention when you got to the part you needed to do differently. You most likely had to devote more focus than the automatic, flowing way that you normally do things.
You may have noticed that the more automatically you performed your duties, the more likely you were to revert back to the old system. You had to stop and remind yourself that there is a new way, and possibly even redo the work.
Over time, you found it easier to make the new method part of the process. Eventually, it required no thought or extra effort at all.
That is the process of forming or breaking a habit. But, like we said earlier, you alter your habits all the time in reaction to external forces. The important thing to remember is that you can be in charge of this change as well.
Changing habits because YOU decide to
When you make the decision to develop or change a habit, the process will be the same. It will take a lot of focus and attention at first. When you are busy or juggling a lot of responsibilities you will catch yourself doing things the old way.
Through time and repetition you will integrate the new way of doing things. You are going to slip up and make mistakes. It is important not to get discouraged too easily and be tempted to give up.
But, there IS an important thing to recognize here. When your job dictates that you need to make a change, you change because you prefer to keep that job. When you decide to make a change for yourself, who is there to enforce it? You aren't going to fire yourself from being you.
That is where an accountability partner may help. This is someone you care about and respect, who will help you keep yourself on track. They shouldn't be too pushy, or too lax. They should be truthful with you, and you should be truthful with them.
How long is it going to take?
You may have heard the commonly known "fact" that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. It varies from person to person, but it actually ranges from 18 to 254 days, averaging out at 66 days. So, around 2 months is a fair assumption to start with.
The reality is that forming a habit will take focus, motivation, and discipline. Here is a little trick that might help:
Make a check mark on a piece of paper every time each day that you successfully do the task in the new way. Keep those pages to look back on if you get discouraged and start to feel like you cannot change. Go back and count how many times that you were successful. Watch them all add up, they will show you that you have what it takes to keep moving forward.
It is totally fine to slip up and fail along the way. Don't let yourself feel defeated. As long as you keep trying, you will succeed.
It's probably a good idea to choose one habit at a time that is going to get all of that energy. Attempting to change too many aspects of life all at once will drain your willpower. Think about the difference between changing one task at work and starting a whole new job.
What happens when the well runs dry on willpower and self-control? People tend to make the choices that are the easiest or that have the most comfortable outcome.
These are often not the healthiest choices. Things like opting for fast food over cooking yourself a meal. Or choosing to watch television for a while longer, rather than exercise. You will need your strength to make the choices that will build you up.
When you are deciding to alter or develop a habit, set realistic and attainable goals for yourself. A goal should be difficult enough to challenge you, but not so difficult that you cannot achieve it. I mean, the whole point is to feel better right? Keep that 66 day average in mind. True change takes time and effort.
Remember the power you have in your life.