Productivity and GTD

4 Steps for Changing Habits

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit" ~ Aristotle

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There are some moments in our lives in which we realize we ought to make some changes. We want a better, more satisfying life. How many times have you thought you should do more exercise, eat healthily or stop smoking? How many times have you tried to be more organized, efficient and productive? Even if you set logical—and often necessary—goals, it turns out they’re very difficult to achieve.

Yes. Changing habits, eliminating a bad one or developing a new one you think it’s positive for your life is really difficult. It’s not only to overcome laziness and resistance to change and just go for it, as most people believe. Changing a habit means you have to replace things you like and are comfortable with, with other things that don’t fit quite well with your today self.

Your whole being is struggling to return to the old way of doing things, and that’s something that causes much stress. The problem is that our self-control capacity is limited and when it’s exhausted, we quit. To increase the chances of success, experts recommend the following steps to remove a bad habit or establish a new one.

  1. Be fully aware of the habit you want to eliminate or establish. Define clearly the beneficial impact it will have on your life. You’ll have to hold on to it at the weak moments in which your whole being will ask you to give up. Making the decision with the correct arguments will increase the chances of success. Ah! And don’t try to change many habits at once; changing one is already a big challenge.
  2. Fully commit to it. If you don’t commit seriously you won’t get it. What are you going to do? Define a realistic plan and discipline yourself to do anything that helps you to succeed. Share it with other people that can support you. Making it public will reinforce this commitment.
  3. Do it. Think about it constantly. Do whatever you need to carry it out. When you’re not thinking about it, your old habits take over. At every step you take, give yourself a small reward to reinforce your motivation. Perseverance is key, just doing something once in a while won’t work. The good news is once you have established a habit, you don’t have to think about it anymore. It becomes something natural in your life.
  4. Don’t give up. Surely, there will be moments of weakness, in which you’ll wonder if it’s worth so much sacrifice. At these moments review your list of reasons for changing. Think back to the kind of person you want to be. Find people close to you willing to support you and encourage you to continue.

Habits are behaviors that we do repeatedly, almost unconsciously. Many experts say that a month may be enough time to establish a habit, though I think it depends on the kind of habit we’re dealing with. Therefore work on it, do it, practice, continue, repeat… And if you fail, try again.

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