Our habits make us who we are. The process of repetitive action shapes and builds our personality, whether we want to admit it or not. For example, the time you go to sleep, the types of foods you eat, how often you exercise, and even how you tie your shoes all become regular habits.
Many of these habits were built unconsciously because of our environment and past experiences, and some habits we may have constructed consciously. Either through your preferences in the types of foods you enjoy or how much time you like to watch television during the week.
The hidden issue with habits is they have the potential to creep up on you and negatively impact your success in life. This is why it’s necessary to become conscious of the type of habits that are not in alignment with your goals or your future self. Why is it so hard to break a bad habit? Well, the answer lies in the ways our brains operate.
Our brains are very efficient. The brain is constantly looking for ways to optimize itself. This is to free up space so we can focus on other tasks. In fact, it’s estimated that at least 80 percent of our actions take place automatically without us having to think about it. Most of us have experienced the driving somewhere and we arrived at our destination, not remembering the entire trip.
This hardwired innate capability is very effective from a survival perspective but can be detrimental if you’ve unconsciously picked up a habit that does not serve you well.
So, when you want to change, it can be challenging for your brain to get outside of its “normal” operating system. Change can feel difficult, but the good news is, it’s not impossible. James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits,” discusses in his book that “if you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system.”
He says, “bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change.” His book, “Clear” offers a different perspective that focuses on the system of our habits rather than striving for a particular goal.
Habits are difficult to modify but they can become much more manageable to change with the right approach or system. Here are two ways to help build good habits:
1. One way to do this, which is discussed in “Clear,” is to modify your environment. Most of our decisions are based on what’s available to us in our external surroundings. Essentially, our habits are influenced depending on what’s available to us in our environment. As an example, if your office or home is filled with doughnuts or bagels, it will be hard not to grab one.
So, if you want to modify your habits, you will have to manage your environment. If you want to drink more water, put a few water bottles around the house in common places. Or, if you wish to read before you go to sleep, place a book on your pillow while making your bed every morning.
These subtle changes can make a significant difference when the options are easily presented to you during your regular routines. As written in Clear, “be the designer of your world and not merely the consumer of it.”
2. Our friends, family and coworkers influence every aspect of our lives. We imitate their behaviors whether we realize it or not. In fact, one groundbreaking study tracked 12 thousand people for 32 years and found that a person’s chances of becoming obese increased by 57 percent if he or she had a friend who is obese.
This startling research reveals that if you hope to adopt a new habit, you should put yourself around people who participate in habits you desire to instill in yourself.
So, if you desire to work out more, find a workout tribe. If you wish to read more, find a book club to join. As the data suggests, the people you consistently surround yourself with, influence you whether you realize it or not!
Positively Caviar, Inc. is a nonprofit organization focused on a message of positivity and optimism. Once a month, the Nucleus Team writes a column focused on mental and physical health tips, scientific studies, nutrition facts and stories that are positive in nature to support a purposeful and positive lifestyle.
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