Before we dive into trying to change up our habits, it’s important to know what exactly we’re dealing with, the process of realizing a habit, and why it’s so tough to change them.
A habit is “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.” (Dictionary.com)
You know what a habit is because you have plenty of them.
Habits tend to be actions that are done almost involuntarily, or at least without much thought. They are the actions that form nearly every aspect of who you are – from your health to your mindset and happiness to your career.
The little actions that you perform daily literally craft your life into the person you currently are, which means the actions you perform from here on out will determine who you will be in the future.
Everything comes down to those daily actions. Success and failure are built upon them.
Each time you go through the process of actualizing a habit, you unconsciously go through four steps – the anatomy of a habit.
The Anatomy of a Habit
Cue > Craving > Response > Reward
The cue is the trigger that causes you to begin a particular habit.
Examples of cues:
Coming home from work
Crawling into bed
Turning on your favorite show
Next, you experience the craving, which is the motivation for the following action (the habit).
Without a craving, a cue means nothing. There simply is no reason to commit an action (habit) without some sense of desire for change.
Examples of cravings:
A clean mouth after brushing your teeth
A full belly after eating a meal
A sense of pride after working out
To be entertained by watching a show
The response is the habit put into action.
This step is not a guaranteed thing, otherwise, building habits would be a cinch.
Whether or not you actually perform the action, or the habit, is dependent on your motivation (craving) and any opposition, such as a weakened mental or physical state.
The reward is the goal. Everything about the cue, craving, and response are focused on obtaining the reward.
The reward reinforces the cues and cravings, making it likely that you will repeat the response again in the future.
For more information on how this process works, check out this article by James Clear.
Out With the Old…
We never actually get rid of old habits. We simply replace them with different habits.
Whether those habits are good or bad for you in the long run is entirely dependent on what you choose to do on a daily basis.
So, how do you “break a habit?”
Since there’s no getting rid of a habit, you need to think in terms of how to change your habit into something more aligned with the results you want.
Let’s go back to the anatomy of a habit.
Cue > Craving > Response > Reward
If you only change one aspect of the process, the new habit isn’t going to stick. You must look at each part of the process.
First, you need to get rid of the trigger for your old habit. (I know, easier said than done, right?)
What you do in the morning sets the tone for your entire day.
If you’ve ever rushed around and arrived at work late, you know what I’m talking about. Those days rarely turn out amazing.
On the flip side, if you’ve ever intentionally woken early to make sure you had plenty of time to do some stretches, enjoy your cup of coffee, and read a good book, you know how good that feels. That glow seems to follow you the rest of the day.
Your early morning decisions affect the nature of your decision making.
When you start your day full of healthy and productive decisions, it’s easy to carry those positive decisions throughout your day.
If you start your day with 5 donuts and a piece of cake, well… is there really even a reason to work out anymore? (While the answer is yes, absolutely, sometimes our minds fight us on that pretty hard.)
Starting your day by keeping a commitment to yourself builds a sense of confidence and pride.
You do your best to keep appointments with other people, so why not try even harder to keep appointments with yourself?
As you commit to and build new habits, your confidence and mindset will start to shift and you’ll find a pride that wasn’t there before.
Why You Need to Track Your New Habits
What gets measured gets done.
I’m sure you’ve heard that before, but let’s dive into it a bit, shall we?
When you try to build a new habit without tracking, it’s easy to let yourself off the hook for a day or two, which easily turns into a week or two. Before you know it, you haven’t actually performed the new habit in months.
When you track a habit, you get to literally see yourself completing (or not completing) the task each day.
It creates a sense of competition with yourself to see if you complete a goal or change an action over a set amount of time.
You’re also giving yourself a sense of accountability. You will have concrete data to show whether you are actually following through on your new habit or not.
Pavlov your mind.
It’s up to you to train yourself by setting goals and following through on them.
Start by tracking your new daily habits with a habit tracker and rewarding yourself in an appropriate way.
Habits to Start Your Day Off Right
Make Your Bed
For some people, this is a no brainer. For others, it’s a pointless activity.
I mean, you’re just going to crawl right back into bed later, right?
While that may be true, each morning that you start by making your bed is a day begun with one task accomplished.
Seeing your bed made will give you a sense of pride.
It sets the tone of your bedroom and home. Whether you work outside of the home or stay home all day, everyone loves climbing into a neat bed at the end of the day.
This idea comes from Admiral William H. McRaven’s book Make Your Bed. It’s an excellent short read with some fantastic actionable tips you can start incorporating into your life today.Check it out on Amazon here.
Move Your Body
Next, take a few minutes each morning to move your body.
Go for a run, take a walk, fit in a workout, or simply do a few stretches before you hop in the shower.
Intentionally moving your body wakes your body and mind.
“Don’t think. Just execute the plan. The plan is the alarm clock goes off, you get up, you go work out. Get some.”
If you can commit to moving your body every day, it WILL affect other areas of your day and life.
Have your schedule and priorities set the night before so that you don’t have to get up and wonder what the day is going to look like.
If you’re overwhelmed, start by using a brain dump to help you organize your thoughts.
Review your schedule and priorities, and start knocking things off your list!
This is my personal least favorite because I just don’t see what could possibly be better than wearing jammies all day.
Regardless, I always have a calmer, more productive and more proactive day when I take the time to get out of my jammies and into something “real,” even if that just means a pair of leggings instead of my favorite sweats.
There are a few good reasons to ditch the sweats and don some real clothes:
You can be ready at a moments notice for emergencies, errands, visitors, or last minute play dates
You’re more likely to actually leave the house for errands or playtime at the park
It’s an act of self-care
It will increase your productivity and reduce laziness
It teaches your children that taking care of themselves is important
Read a book, devotional, your bible, the newspaper… just read a page or two of something to get your brain juices flowing.
This is also a form of self-care. You’re feeding your intellect, and if you really enjoy reading you’re filling a need to do something enjoyable each day.
Fill Your Motivation Cup
People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.
Motivation is something you need to refill every single day.
You can find it through reading, podcasts, meditation, or even a vision board.
Regardless of where you find your motivation, make sure you get a bit in each morning.
Start the Night Before
At the end of each day, prep for the following day.
Create your meal plan, pre-pack lunches, set your coffee maker to brew at the right time, use a brain dump to schedule your priorities… Do everything you can ahead of time to make your morning run smoother.