Wise Words Wednesday.....Creating Habits
Posted on 16th August 2017 at 07:00
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit”- Aristotle
I chose to focus on the words highlighted in red because this quote is about who you become because of the actions you take. What this also means is that you can become excellent at behaviours that don’t serve you. For example, complaining, procrastinating, doubting yourself, not believing in yourself etc.
There is a principle called The Hebbian Law of Repetition which basically says that nerve cells that fire together wire together. Your habits when repeated create a neural pathway in the brain which over time become hardwired.
When the same habits are repeated, the neural circuits associated with those habits become stronger and stronger. This is just like a well - trodden path that you might find in the woods which has become established over a period of time. Eventually these habits become programmed into your sub-conscious mind and they become automatic.
If you want to create a new habit you must develop a new neural pathway. The challenge is you have is to keep repeating the new habit to build a new set of circuits. This would be like taking a completely new route across a forest where the pathway only becomes obvious once that new path is followed repeatedly.
How Long Does It Take to Form a Habit?
In the past I have often heard that it takes about 21 days to form a habit. This of course will depend on the habit you are focusing on and how determined you are as an individual. Your level of motivation, will power and sense of urgency will also influence how well you do.
According to a study completed by Phillippa Lalle published in July 2009 a daily activity such as eating fruit or taking a 15-minute run every day took on average 66 days before it became an automatic habit. However, the variation ranged from 18 days to 254 days in this study which could be related to the variations in people and habits. Some people are more habit resistant than others.
What this study also revealed was that if you missed one day, this was not going to set you back so keeping a 100% track record wasn’t a requirement. So, no need to beat yourself up if you miss a day.
What Can You Do to Make Your Habit Stick?
Over time if you stop taking the old route in the woods, eventually that pathway will become overgrown and disappear. This is what happens to old neural circuits. When they no longer fire and wire together they prune away. So, your old habit becomes replaced with the new habit.
Here are a few things you can do:
• Start by taking very small steps so it requires little commitment and effort.
• Be clear when you will complete your new habit. For example, at 8.00 am every morning or after lunch
• Measure your progress by tracking what you do daily and then review weekly.
• Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. What’s more important is that you start again.
• Accept that in the beginning it will feel awkward and you may struggle because it’s unfamiliar.
• Never give up because it’s a learning process.
If you are truly committed to creating a new habit, then you must be willing to do something different and keep practicing it until it becomes second nature.
1.0 Stay consistent
2.0 Set yourself a daily reminder
3.0 Start small and simple
Over to You
I would love to hear about your personal experiences of creating new habits. Leave a comment below.
Tagged as: Habits
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