Changing your lifestyle isn’t an event that happens overnight. Instead, it’s a process that occurs gradually over time. Most of us are creatures of habit so how did those self defeating habits form?
Imagine that, each time you get home each evening, you eat a snack. When you first eat the snack upon getting home, a mental link is formed between getting home and your response to eating a snack. Each time you subsequently snack in response to getting home, this link strengthens, to the point that getting home comes to prompt you to eat a snack automatically, without giving it much prior thought; a habit has formed. (From Busting the 21 days habit formation myth By Ben D Gardner Sood, on June 29 2012.)
So how do we break this habit? We first identify behaviors your want to change and circumstances which support their continued occurrence. Second, create a plan to change these circumstances and put it into action.
- Identify a behavior you would like to change (e.g. I eat a donut every morning)
- Record what events and circumstance happen before or lead up to the behavior (e.g. I leave my house early so I can stop at the bakery)
- Examine the consequences of the behavior to help you understand why you keep doing the behavior. (e.g. when I eat the donut, my hunger goes away and it tastes good)
- State your goals in a clear and precise manner (e.g. I want to stop eating a donut every morning)
- Develop an action plan by reviewing the tactics for changing the events and circumstances which typically precede the behavior and identify strategies for change. (e.g. I’ll leave so I won’t have time to stop at the bakery)
- Finally, after the change tactic has been successfully executed, identify and administer a non-food reward to congratulate yourself. (e.g. a bubble bath, a new sweater).