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4 Ways to Overcome Barriers to Change and Make New Habits Stick

4 Ways to Overcome Barriers to Change and Make New Habits Stick
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    Will 2012 be a year for change or will you keep doing what you have always done?

    “It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

    Albert Einstein

    Seems obvious, only an idiot would try to keep doing the same thing and expect different results, no? But the truth is I’m guilty of it, my friends are guilty, my family are guilty and I guess each one of you reading this is also guilty of the syndrome. If change were easy we would all be different, more successful, healthier, fitter, stronger, slimmer, more intelligent and definitely more accomplished. But we are not. And here’s the reasons why.

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    Change is difficult.

    Change is uncomfortable.

    Most human beings resist change. The familiar becomes a false sense of security even if it is a bad habit or a behavior that doesn’t serve us. Fear prevents us from moving forward. The “what if” syndrome hits us. What if I lose money? What if it’s the wrong decision? What if I can’t keep it up? I say sod all the negatives,

    Change is necessary,

    Change is good,

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    Change is exciting, it’s thrilling, it’s energizing.

    Life is ever changing, it’s dynamic, no two moments are ever the same. Our bodies are different one moment to the next, so why would we try to keep things the same? Why not embrace the difference, the different emotions, the different experiences that is life?

    Successful Change

    The route to successful change is in the habits we create, it’s achieved by consistent small changes which add up to desired results.

    “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

    Aristotle

    If we are what we repeatedly do, then creating habits of what we want in our lives in the only way to go. But how do we create habits that stick? Most of us will have a New Year’s Resolution or 22 that haven’t quite worked out the way we planned; there are a number of reasons why this can happen.

    1. Lack of planning

    If you want anything to work well it must have a POA (Plan of Action) You need to put some thought into What, When, Why and any other question word you can think of. If you want to create the habit of exercise then you must decide what exercise, what days and for how long before you put your gear on. Failing to plan is setting yourself up to fail.

    2. Trying too much too soon

    When starting a new habit, you need to start small and do it often. If you want to create a habit of writing, the trick is to do a little every day. If you are what you repeatedly do, some day you can become a writer.

    3. Focusing on the wrong thing

    Many people without realizing focus on the wrong thing. Every year I would set the goal to lose weight and every year I would fail. Last year I finally realized why it wasn’t working. I spent a lot of time focusing on my rounded belly and feeling negative about how my diet wasn’t working. One morning in the shower I had an epiphany. I spent my life telling people to focus on the positive and to focus on what they want and here I was spending my time focusing on my the parts of my body I didn’t like instead of focusing on the healthy, strong lean body I was busy creating. I have finally lost the weight.

    4. Lack of Self Belief

    “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”

    Henry Ford probably didn’t realize how famous his quotation would become but he knew how true these words were. If you go to the trouble of setting a goal, do yourself a favor and believe in ability to achieve it. If your best friend told you they were going to change this year, this year was going to be different. This year they are going to stop doing what they have always done and do what needs to be done to achieve the changes that they want to achieve. Would you support your friend or would you doubt and discourage them with negative thoughts and words?

    Start being your own best friend start encouraging and believing in yourself. Nurture your attempts with positive supportive words and actions. You can do it this year. You will do it; you just have to believe and you are half way there.

    (Photo credit: Change Just Ahead Green Road Sign via Shutterstock)

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    Ciara Conlon

    Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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