Trade Bad Habits For Powerful Routines To Reach Your Goals

Feb 6, 2013 in Blog

Below is a great article by Amy Alexander, writing for INVESTORS.COM, about Achieving Your Goals.  Thank you Jennifer W. for bringing it to my attention.

Trade Bad Habit For Powerful Routines To Reach Dreams, by Amy Alexander

Once you’ve decided on a meaningful goal, tackle it. Ask: Are my habits and routines a scaffolding for success? Or am I sabotaging myself without realizing it?

That’s what Gregg Steinberg did. The sports psychologist was trying to improve his health and fitness. One repeated action that stood in his way: the RC Cola he chugged on his way to work each morning.

By applying a little bit of habit savvy, Steinberg replaced the soda with a cup of coffee, shaving teaspoons of sugar and a few calories each day. “Habit therapy is used to treat all kinds of problems, from depression to gambling to procrastination,” Steinberg, the author of “Full Throttle,” told IBD.

It’s good medicine for goal seekers too.

 Grasp. What are habits anyway? They reduce your brain’s need to make constant decisions. Over time, environmental or social triggers kick off automatic actions that lead to a deep sense of relief, accomplishment or reward — no thinking necessary.

Outsmart them. “If we learn the structure of the habit loop, it is easier to fiddle with the gears and control your habit,” Steinberg said.

His morning lag triggered his craving for RC Cola. He guzzled it, then got a kick from the caffeine and sugar-induced buzz that helped him launch his day.

The coffee did the same thing, though. That’s how he conquered the cola habit.

 Tinker. Breaking bad cycles can be tough. “Some habits yield easily to analysis and influence. Others are more complex and obstinate,” said Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit.”

 Sleuth. Scope your life for automatic routines that are causing dream decay. Example: You want to save money. You also have a habit of swinging through the drive-thru for that daily $4 latte. Deleting — or at least rethinking — costly, knee-jerk actions can bring about a new reality.

 Crack. “Identify the components of your loops,” Duhigg said. “What’s the cue for this routine?” You might indulge in an afternoon candy bar not because you’re hungry, but because you’re lonely and you talk with co-workers on your way to the vending machine.

Try eating an apple and skipping the chocolate, Duhigg suggests.

If hunger is driving you, you’ll be satisfied without the candy.

Or try taking a stroll. Maybe all you want is a little chitchat.

 Do a prize appraisal. Rewards drive behavior. When you start a good habit, come up with a golden carrot you can chase. Many specific, measurable goals are incentives in themselves. Think losing 5 pounds or completing a marathon.

 Make great things happen. Steinberg uses habits to help his clients get in the zone. He molds buzzwords, images and actions into triggers that create a motivated mental state.

 Blaze a trail. Steinberg once worked with a businessman who had to speak to gatherings as part of his job. “He performed his best when he was really amped up, but sometimes he got flat,” he said.

Creating a repeatable routine helped shift his mindset. Each time the businessman was getting ready to talk, he’d say, quietly, “Find the fire.” Then he’d imagine his best presentation ever and slap his leg.

Consistent, shining speeches became his new norm, said Steinberg: “Those primers pushed his emotions in the right direction before every event.”