Over the years we have developed habits that come to us as naturally and unconsciously as speaking our own language.
Most of our habits (minus our innate ones) were developed at one point or another in our life.
Almost every one of our habits can be traced back to a beginning.
I will use language as an example for developing habits since the development of a habit is similar to learning a language, and for the fact that our thoughts develop our habits.
When we first developed a habit it took conscious effort, time, emotion and mental energy.
We practiced developing our habits over time until it became unconscious and automatic, whether it was waking up for school in the morning, playing a sport or learning a language.
If you think about something as difficult as language and the thoughts we generate through our language, all the rules we had to learn, the alphabet, grammar, what words came first, what order to put them in, how often we should repeat something and when to leave it out, you realize it took a lot of time, a lot of practice and developing good habits for us to get good at it.
We made many mistakes along the way. We had some great teachers and some bad ones.
Our beliefs that it could be accomplished and our consistent practice is what eventually led us to become good enough that we no longer have to mentally think about when or how to say something.
Unconsciously we just know.
We had a community of individuals all learning how to speak at the same time we were learning.
In some ways they were our support group.
We communicated amongst one another and over the years became very good at our language.
We learned from those smarter than us and taught those who knew less.
We developed our habits over time by using feedback to help us learn to communicate more effectively.
If we didn’t develop the habits of going to school, reading, writing, doing our homework and asking questions we would have had a much harder time learning our language.
While this extreme example may show us how complex some habits can be it has enabled us to live much better lives.
It may have taken us years to get there but the pay off has been well worth the journey.
When it comes to our habits in life we often believe that we can’t change them.
We make the thought of change too large and difficult in our minds.
We don’t believe, we don’t develop a support group and we don’t take action and look for useful feedback.
We develop a mentality of failure before we even take our first step.
These methods can be used for both your own personal lives as well as your professional ones to help you develop better habits in your life.
The first thing we need to do is put things into perspective.
Remember the example I gave earlier about the habits we had to develop to learn our language.
We didn’t know it in the beginning.
It was very uncomfortable and unnatural.
We had to take it step by step and not give up if we didn’t master it in the first year or two.
The more effort you put into it and the more often you practice, the easier it will become until it becomes unconscious, but it is important you follow the steps involved and get good feedback so that you develop good habits.
Developing a habit without effective and constructive feedback can often cause us to develop bad habits without us knowing we’re doing something wrong.
We often expect results to come the next day or the next week, but life doesn’t usually work that way or that fast.
You will make mistakes during your development of a new habit.
It’s natural and you shouldn’t let it deter you.
You will get frustrated, and may feel like quitting, but having a strong enough belief that you can succeed will allow you to continue moving forward.
As children we learned to crawl before we walked and we used whatever help and feedback we got to help us get better.
Changing your beliefs has to begin with putting things into the right perspective and understanding that it will take time, energy, emotion, focus, and lots of conscious effort in the beginning.
You will forget, remember, and forget again.
Eventually you will be able to do it unconsciously and may even forget the steps involved, but you will have created a new habit worth the effort.
Teachers, coaches, and friends who are able to teach you what they have learned and how will greatly assist you in developing positive habits. .
Those who understand the process and can teach it to you can be an invaluable asset.
They can often see the very things you miss and give you great guidance as well as feedback and support.
Having a group of individuals learning the same habits as you is also good because the group or individual can help keep you accountable and teach you what they have learned and vice versa.
You can greatly increase your motivation and understanding by being able to teach those less educated as well.
Take your time.
This is not about changing your habits over night.
Some habits may come fairly quickly while others will take a long time.
It depends on how much you want to develop the new habit, how complex it is, and how often you perform the activity you are trying to get better at.
The third step is to break everything down. Understand how and why something works and take your time before moving into the more difficult activities.
Simplify it, understand the parts that develop the habit/s, learn the rules and practice it until it becomes second nature.
So for example if you wanted to exercise more frequently.
Start off with a brisk walk for 5 to 10 minutes every day.
Make small dietary changes to healthier foods that you can enjoy.
Read up on the best exercises, and join a group of friends in some healthy, competitive activities.
As you get better you can move on to more complex exercises and as you learn more about cooking you can create more elaborate healthy meals.
Get useful feedback and adjust yourself until you find success and then repeat that success until it becomes an unconscious habit.
This is where a lot of people make mistakes.
They get feedback that they don’t like, assume they are no good at it and quit.
The whole point of feedback is to allow you to make positive adjustments so that you can get the best possible outcome.
Feedback is your friend not your enemy.
When you can learn to take constructive criticism and good feedback, and release the beliefs that you can’t change you can begin to develop the building blocks necessary to create healthier habits.
Have fun. The more you enjoy yourself the easier it is to change the habit you are trying to change.
If you enjoy dancing or cycling and it is much easier for you to do than grudgingly going to a gym and lifting weights start there.
You have to consciously want the change in order for it to become a reality.
If you don’t want it to begin with than you may be pushing yourself into a direction you don’t want to go in and eventually you’ll end up abandoning your efforts.
What habits are you’re struggling with and what have you done to overcome those bad habits? Join in the discussion in the comments sections.
Tip: Have you read What does Jay Z, Warren Buffet, and Steve Jobs have in common?
Also don’t forget to check out How your goals are determining your lifestyle.