Change is hard, but it is very doable with the right plan of attack. Last week I discussed some strategies to develop better habits; now I’d like to show you how to reinforce them.
It’s better to start by developing a small replacement habit and then building on it, rather than trying to eliminate a bad habit all at once. For example, let’s say you eat too much chocolate. Eliminating chocolate would be difficult. It might be better to start by eating a few nuts and some dried fruit before the chocolate. Then slowly let the ratio of nuts and fruit increase until you don’t need the chocolate any more. These small habits become reinforced through practice. By repeating this habit over and over again you eventually seal it in.
It is much harder to develop smaller habits if your thoughts are negative. This is the keystone habit that will help form all the other important habits to get you where you want to be. Positive thinking will not make you the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, but it will certainly go a long way in motivating you do what is required.
Smoking is an extremely tough habit to break. I quit when I was 23 and it was a struggle. When I allowed myself to entertain negative thoughts for very long, I would give up and head right to the convenience store. When I learned how to minimize (not eliminate, they still come from time to time) the negative thoughts and think of positive ones instead, I eventually kicked the habit for good. The key is practicing this exercise over and over again until it becomes second nature. Ask any professional coach or athlete and they will tell you that practice and preparation is the key to their success, both physically and mentally. This leads to greater confidence and positive self-talk.
Work on becoming more aware of your negative self-talk. Take a mental note or keep track of your negative thoughts throughout the day by marking them down on a piece of paper when they pop up. By recognizing negative self-talk and seeing where it comes from, you can minimize it greatly.
We are all a byproduct of our routines, and our routines consist of all those tiny habits and rituals that we perform throughout the course of the day. In order to get to where we ultimately want to be, our habits need to be congruent with our long term goals. It is a slow, steady process and by breaking everything down into fragments, your ability to prosper in all areas of your life will skyrocket.