Advertising
Advertising

The Promises We Make to Ourselves

The Promises We Make to Ourselves


    Each day offers us a new promise.  A new beginning. A chance to do better and be a better person at home, work, and everything else in between. We set goals for ourselves to accomplish.  It starts off good.

    Advertising

    But then the kids wake up, the phone rings, the emails come through, Facebook and Twitter messages come in, a conference call occurs, lunch happens, client meetings, and then next thing you know, it’s dinner time. Time to relax. Sip a good cup of tea, a cup of coffee, wine (or whatever your choice might be), and then bedtime.  We then lay our head down on our pillow, look up in the dark room and think to ourselves:

    “What did we really accomplish today? What happened to our promises to ourselves? Sure, we were busy, but did we get the right things done?  Did we forget or just talk ourselves out of our vision to do better today because we were too busy?”

    In this post, I’ll share with you three ways to change this routine.

    Write it down

    Keeping yourself accountable is one of the best ways to see measurable results.  Think of one to three things you want to do differently and write them down.  This is the “what”.  It could be anything at all, like I want to run a 5k, I want to learn how make sushi, I want to become a better public speaker, etc. From there, write down why this goal is important to you. It might seem foreign or bizarre, but it will feel good after you do it. Next, write down where you need to be in order to accomplish those things you wrote down (i.e., the gym, a community college course, at home, etc). Then, write down when you believe you can accomplish these things and jot down key milestones you want to accomplish along the way (i.e., rewarding yourself for finishing week 4 of an 8 week running course).  Be honest with yourself in your time commitments. Finally, and most importantly, write down how you are going to feel when you finish.  How will your spouse feel?  How will a business partner feel?  Knowing how you’ll feel is almost more important than knowing what you want to do because it enables you to clearly define the outcome.

    Advertising

    Check it off

    Create a chart.  Nothing fancy.  In fact, make one that you can physically check off.  It will feel better!  On this chart, you’ll check off every day that you plan to accomplish this task.  For instance, if I promise myself I will run three times a week so that I can run a 5k, I will check off each time I do it.  When I get to week 4, I’ll have a place that shows I’ve accomplished a key milestone.  All too often we get caught up in “which app should I use” but I assure you, simple pen and paper will win here – and if you put it in a place that you will always see, it will help keep yourself accountable.

    Review what you’ve accomplished

    Each week, review the checkmarks on the chart.  Did you accomplish what you set out to do for that week?  What few things went right for you?  What challenges did you have?  What could have gone better or differently? What did you learn about yourself during this process?  Writing a log at the end of each week helps you to “think out loud” about the things that will help you.  When you successfully complete those one to three things (because you can!), reward yourself.  You’ve honored your commitments.  Write down how it feels and then compare that to what you wrote down in the beginning.  Do you feel the same? Better? Different?  How has your life changed, if any, as a result?

    Advertising

    If you follow these three steps, each day won’t just be a chance to do better or become better … you will be better as a result! You will be able to go through the course of your day more confident, and when you rest your head on your pillow and look up in the dark room and think to yourself about what you accomplished during the day, you can smile and sleep better!

    (Photo credit: Child with Raised hand Making a Promise via Shutterstock)

    Advertising

    More by this author

    Focus on the Process and Not the Tools to Get Things Done The Promises We Make to Ourselves

    Trending in Productivity

    1 How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology) 2 How to Change Habits When You Feel Stuck in a Rut 3 Need Journal Inspiration? 15 Journal Ideas to Kickstart 4 How to Stay Consistent and Realize Your Dreams 5 How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on March 25, 2020

    How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

    How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

    Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

    However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

    Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

    Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

    Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems.

    In this article, you will learn why it isn’t easy to build new habits, and how to change habits.

    What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

    To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

    The Biology

    Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

    Advertising

    Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

    The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

    A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

    Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

    So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

    Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

    Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

    Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

    Advertising

    Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

    The Psychology

    Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

    Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

    Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

    Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

    What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

    Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

    Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

    1. Identify Your Habits

    As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

    Advertising

    2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

    Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

    It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

    3. Apply Logic

    You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

    Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

    4. Choose an Alternative

    As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

    Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

    5. Remove Triggers

    Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

    Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

    Advertising

    6. Visualize Change

    Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

    For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

    7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

    Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

    Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

    Final Thoughts

    Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

    Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

    More About Changing Habits

    Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next