Change A Habit Of A Lifetime!
The Power Of Habit!
I love to research and read up on how I can improve both my performance and help others. From research I have carried out starting at University all those years ago to my time in the Royal Air Force and as a coach and personal trainer, habits have always highlighted themselves front and centre of behaviour change!
I feel compelled to share this as I near the end of reading a fantastic book that highlights exactly how habit change can impact our lives! The book is called ‘The Power of Habit’ written by award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg. He uses real life examples with behavioural science to breakdown human habits so we can understand how successful people have built these habits to achieve amazing things. People such as Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps becoming the most decorated athlete of all time and the CEO of Starbucks and how he grew the coffee culture and systems to establish the company as a household name.
This book is an eye opener for anybody who wants to make a positive change in their life, it may be a small change such as working out how to get up in the morning without pressing the snooze button 6 times, all the way to positive habitual changes to promote weight loss, improve fitness, to help plan for a successful adventure or challenge or to open your mind to opportunities out there to improve. For all personal trainers I would recommend this as a must read! It highlights the need to tailor fitness and nutrition and work with clients to provide the best overall experience. One fitness class a week is a start but with small changes there is so much more to be gained!
Habits are a science, they can transform us, they can transform those around us. Once we understand what the trigger is and why we do things we can start to break it down and replace the engrained habits with new ones that work towards our goals. This isn’t an easy fix, but if you get it right it can be permanent! The habit loop explains in simple terms what we go through:
- First it starts with a cue or a trigger, this could be an emotion or the time of day. Take the evening for example.
- Next it looks at the routine, watching TV, you have sat down to enjoy your favourite programme after a long day.
- The final stage is the reward the pleasure chemical released because of the routine. An example here may be that whenever you watch your favourite programme you have a beer or a glass of wine.
Because of the reward the habit loop is enforced and you start to associate a long day with the need to watch TV and have a glass of beer or wine with your favourite programme! This is a habit, the brain stops making decisions and goes into auto-mode. You get in, reach for the remote, chuck yourself down on the sofa and crack open a bottle whilst searching for your favourite programme!
In order to break this habit, we need to break the loop. Stop the trigger! So maybe we don’t head straight to the sofa as soon as we get in from a long day at work. Instead we get in, go and get changed and head out for a 20 minute walk or run. This means we don’t sit down on the sofa and we get our body moving. It also means because we haven’t sat down we haven’t opened that bottle of wine or beer! Finally, on return from our 20 minutes of physical activity we feel energised! We don’t feel like that beer or wine and we decide to make that lovely recipe for tea as we have the energy to cook! Then we decide as we have started the week so well, we will drink water with dinner and leave the wine/beer until the weekend, but we promised ourselves we would sit down and watch our favourite programme, so we do!
You need to breakdown the automation of tasks. Your brain cannot distinguish between a good and bad habit, you need to do that! But, once you are aware you can start to put in place triggers to make the ‘good’ habit the automated one. Get your kit ready to go so it is lying on your bed when you walk in from work, once you are changed you are more likely to get out for that walk or run!
The key is to change a habit. The habit wont just disappear, you need to be aware and conscious of it. Then you can use the same cue (get in from work in the evening) but change the routine (don’t sit down, get changed into workout kit)! Then you can provide the same reward (your favourite programme on TV).
The first step is to be consciously aware, start to take note of any cues or triggers, then think about the next step, the routine, how can you change it to achieve your desired outcome?
Food for thought hey!