Many of us have patterns of thinking and behaving that have become habits, and that can trip us up as we try to move forwards. Whether they are obvious habits around diet, alcohol, and lifestyle choices, or ways in which we behave and think about ourselves. The start of the year can be a great time to assess our habits. In this post I look at some of the key areas to help with changing habits.
What Can Help Changing Habits?
How Habits Creep Up On Us
We all have patterns of behaviour and thinking – things we do habitually. Some of these will work well for us, but others can develop into “bad” habits that need breaking. Often these can be so embedded that we don’t think about them as a habit, they are “just who I am”.
These habits might have their roots in how our family went about things. Or we might have developed them unintentionally over time – like buying a chocolate bar at the petrol station every time we paid for fuel. It might be that glass of wine when we get home whilst we are preparing dinner to help us relax after a stressful day. What might be fine as a treat has become too frequent, and becomes a habit we need to break.
It can feel difficult to know where to start and how to stick with it through the ups and downs of changing habits, so here is my 7 point checklist to offer some extra support.
1. What Does Your Habit Do For You?
We can usually find a positive root to a habit. Deep down there is a constructive reason for what we do – we want to feel happy, loved, safe, connected. The habits we create are often trying to help us to achieve that, even if that approach can sometimes be a little counter-productive.
For example, eating for comfort or to suppress feelings may give an immediate payback but creates problems in the longer run. If you want to change and update your approach to food, alcohol, smoking, exercise, your relationships, career or personal development it is helpful to consider what your current approach gives you. Unless you acknowledge and address that it will be difficult to generate lasting change.
2. Is Your Identity Stopping You From Changing Your Habits?
Who we believe we are can also play an important part in changing old unhelpful habits and building new ones. This can be part of the glue that holds us in old patterns. How we think of ourselves creates both opportunities and limitations for us. Our identity may need updating and broadening – we all have many “roles” we inhabit and labels we give ourselves, check the ones you can list are who you really are who you want to be.
3. Could Limiting Beliefs Be Blocking Building New Habits?
Equally important are the beliefs we hold about ourselves and the world we live in. Some may be holding us back from developing more positive habits. We might believe that we “don’t stick at anything” or “are not good enough” and it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Listen out for these as they shout you down each time you plan to build new habits.
Read my post on NLP Belief Change to be helpful in considering our childhood framework and why belief change work can be so liberating.
4. Consider The Practical Issues Around Changing Habits
As well as working with the deeper glue that holds unhelpful habits in place, it can also be good to consider some common sense strategies too. Look at everyday triggers, environments and challenges that can make it harder for you to stay on track.
For example, it is easier to buy healthier foods online working from a list, rather than shopping at the end of a long working day when you are tired and hungry?
Use reminders on your phone, put visual prompts in place to help you remember your new positive habits.
5. Do You Really Own Your Habits?
This is perhaps the golden key. If we do not really “own” the change we want to make, it makes it so very much harder.
Q: How many Psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Only one, but the bulb has got to really WANT to change. 
If you are feeling stuck, consider the points discussed above. Not only as valid areas in themselves, but also try to see if any particular aspect is robbing you of ownership. That might be a very productive place to start.
6. When Is The Best Time To Start?
The perfect time is now, to start and take active steps in changing your habits. So often we decide to wait until next Monday, or after a particular event, when we could start now. That perfect moment when absolutely everything in your world is aligned may take a little while to arrive. Getting started with what we have will achieve more than waiting for perfection.
7. Seek Out Support And Inspiration
It can be really helpful to enlist the support and input from people who believe in you and are on your wavelength. From checking in to update on your progress, sharing ideas, to someone with whom to go on walks, to the gym or declutter the house. It helps when things are going well and also when you might be flagging.
Look ahead and see the future you as you wish to be – healthy and happy, smiling back at you. Consider now what steps you need to take to get there, and with each step give birth to your even more positive tomorrows.
You may also find some of my other Life Coaching blog post links below to be of help. I use a range of tools and approaches to help people with changing habits. I hope you have found this post to be helpful. If you feel you would like help, I see patients at both clinics and also work via Skype. You can book an initial free 15 minute mini-consultation to see if my approach might suit you please do contact me.
References and Resources:
 Light Bulb Jokes