Have you ever given any thoughts about how are our habits being created? Often we go through life without even thinking about our habits, where are they coming from and if they are serving us or not.
Our habits are created in a part of our brain called basal ganglia, this part of the brain plays a big role also in our development of emotions, memories and pattern recognition.
Decisions are created in different part of our brain which is called: prefrontal cortex.
How Habits Are Created
Every habit starts with the psychological pattern called a “habit loop”, which is a three part process. First, there is a “cue” or a trigger that tells your brain to go into the automatic mode so the habit behavior can unfold.
Than there is a routine which is the behavior it’s self.
Reword is the third step in the habit creation and is the result that our habit is trying to provide to us.
Often the reword is the part that we do not understand fully. Why is this particular outcome rewording even if it is creating a habit that is not serving us?
Creating habits of certain automatic behaviors are necessary, behaviors like, washing our teeth, driving our car, cleaning our house etc. In these automated behaviors we use less brain “power” and that leaves much more brain energy for other processes that need more of our brain energy.
In these automated situations, our habits can be very useful.
But when it comes to other behaviors where we create habits that influence our functioning like, eating, drinking, sleeping, studying, planning, developing a business, writing a book, accomplishing a task etc, our habits play a big role. In these cases even if we make a decision to create positive results for us, if we don’t have well trained habits that will support our decision most probably we will not succeed in accomplishing what we have planned to create.
When we are younger, we are not aware of these processes of creating the habits, often even our parents are not aware as well. It is in this period, when we are too young to be aware of the habit creations, that we create subconsciously and we use them on autopilot for the rest of the life.
We start believing that this is who we are and if we are not good in something it is because we are convinced that we don’t know how to do it, or we are not talented enough. And often the truth cant be further away from this way of thinking.
It can be very confusing and paradoxical, how come we create the habits that at the end create the results that are not serving us.
Often it is said that the result satisfies a deeper need within us and the only way to understand what is the deeper need is to dig deeper and find that need.
As Charles Duhigg says in his book The Power of Habit: “The weird thing about the rewards is that we don’t actually know what we are actually craving.”
What this tells us is that while we are behaving in a certain way thinking that it is obvious reason why we are doing what we are doing,very often it is hidden much deeper. We can understand that deeper need by really observing our selves, and trying to understand the feelings that we are having.
Lets say for example we want to break the habit of procrastinating of going to gym.
I sign my self up to go to gym in March because l wanted to be fit for the summer. The first fifteen days l went three times per a week and, l was happy about the exercising and how it made me feel. Than it started being more and more difficult and l started avoiding to go as l did many times before. I started procrastinating because it was hard to do the exercises and since it was hard l began procrastinating and telling my self that l will go tomorrow. When tomorrow came l would tell my self again that l will go the day after and so on, until l would stop going to gym at all. Many times before l tried going to gym and it always ended by me giving up after a month or two.
It was obvious that this habit was not serving me but l didn’t know how to change it and create a new habit that will help me go to gym constantly.
Three Steps In Creating The Healthy Habits
When l was younger l didn’t really think lot about this habit of procrastinating. I just thought that l was not agile enough and since l lost interest fast, l thought the gym and the physical exercise was not for me. But as l grew older, l started to notice that my physical health was suffering because of me not exercising. My lower back started hurting me, l would often get a stiff neck and that prevented me of moving fluidly.
I understood that l wasn’t really helping my self by not going to the gym. But just me realizing this didn’t help me change the habit of procrastinating.
I became very frustrated by my self not following through what l told my self and one day l just did not want to continue like this any more so l sat down and started writing about every thing that came to my mind about why did l not go to gym and why would l need to go and l discovered some big answers by asking my self few questions.
1. Why Was It Important To Me To Go To Gym?
As l was answering this question what occurred to me was that l did not have a good enough reason to go to gym before. Deep down l was actually never interested to go to gym because l wanted to look fit for the summer. In reality, l couldn’t care less if l was fit and if my body was perfect for the summer.
Right here l understood that l did not have a very big reason why l needed to go to gym.
Another thing that came to my mind was that l was bored with always having to do the same exercises and l just didn’t like rising wights in the gym.
Until that moment l actually never realized that l did not like the gym and the exercises one does and in gym, l didn’t like the courses that were offered. I could tell the others enjoyed, but the gym way of exercising was not for me.
My why was not strong enough, l only than realized that l was trying to go to gym for the wrong reasons.
2. What Do l Want My Outcome To Be ( what is my reword) ?
One thing that really was clear to me was that l never thought of gym or physical exercise as a healthy life style. Only at this point l thought how the physical exercise could help me actually have a healthier back and neck situation.
As l realized this, the way l was looking at physical exercise started shifting. All of a sudden it got a totally new meaning. I started feeling motivation within me and l started wanting and wishing to exercise.
Than another thought came to my mind, it was actually a worry. Until now l never made it to exercise more than two moths or so, how am l going to overcome it now?
3. What Were The Exact Steps To Help Me Create New Habit?
I realized immediately that the habits l had until that moment were not serving me and l needed to change them. But what exactly did l need to do?
I understood if l was to have a better health l needed to make some changes. I took the paper and the pen and l started writing down. I decided to have the clear steps in creating my new habits.
First l observed my unhealthy habit and l wrote down what stories was l telling my self in my head and why did l not end up continued going to gym.
I realized that l need to start exercising with some thing that l found fun and a bit challenging at the same time. So walking fast was the exercise l loved doing. I also remembered how mentally recharged l would feel when l managed to walk fast. It was amazing how no matter how tired l felt, l noticed how after walking for a while l would feel my energy shifting. From tiered and stressed l would shift to more energized and more relaxed.
After deciding how to go about my exercise, there was nothing else to do than to start and be consistent. That is exactly what l ended up doing. And it has made a huge change.
Even when it was hard to wake up in the morning and go and exercise, l still pushed my self to go out and walk because l knew how l benefited from consistently walking every day.
Every day l started fresh until it reached the point it became more easy and l was not resisting it any more.
What did l do differently
I realized later that in creating and working on this one habit l actually helped my self transferring this knowledge on creating other habits as well.
Once learned the process, it easier to implement on other habits and on other areas of my life that needed to be worked on.
The things l learned in this process were:
- I needed a good reason, deeper than the obvious. I found my deeper WHY. ( Once l understood that having a healthy body and a healthy and happier mind was my deeper WHY (my true reason) my intrinsic motivation went high and l knew l am going to exercise with more consistency).
- I wrote down every thing that was not serving me about the old habit. (By writing down all that l sow happening in my head, l could see clearly why l did not manage to continue the gym in the past).
- I changed the activity and started working the process in little steps. (Gym was boring for me , and this was also a reason why l did not feel motivated to go. I found other type of exercising that l found fun and challenging and l started walking fast. Later that walk became a jogging so one can build up from simple to more complicated exercising.)
- I took action and started exercising. I pushed my self until it became easier to do and it became a new healthier habit. ( Once my why was authentic,l chose how to exercise it was easier foe me to keep me on track. Even when it was hard to wake up in the morning, it was enough for me to count from 5-1 back words ( find Mel Robins video on YOUTBE the 5,4,3,2,1 rule) and that would get me up and moving immediately. I knew that even it was hard to get up and start, once l was walking fast my mood started shifting and l felt much much better. I was glad l got up and l went walking).
When we can observe our selves from within ,without judgment, we can notice many things happening within us. It becomes clear that we are not that habits, but that these habits are part of the pattern that we created and that eventually this pattern became automatic and our brain stopped paying attention to it. Once we started observing the pattern, we became more aware how that process that was created long time ago is not serving us now and that time has come to create new habits that will serve us better in the future.