Anirvan works at a big multinational organization. He leads a disciplined life with a strict daily routine. He wakes up early, goes to bed on time and goes for a jog every day.
However, he can’t stop smoking and drinking many mugs of coffee when he is stressed. He is trying to quit but it’s a struggle.
Anirvan’s story isn’t unusual. Most people find it difficult to break out of old habits, good or bad, and develop new ones. Let’s explore how habits form and the different types of habits that govern our lifestyles.
Back To Basics: What Is A Habit?
Many people have a habit of falling asleep with the television on. Or they always clear the clutter on their desk at the end of the day. At its simplest, habit is a behavior you repeat without being aware of it. These behavioral patterns can be an action, lifestyle or routine.
Not all habits are good, which is why we need to recognize and get rid of them. Good and healthy habits are instrumental in personal growth and development.
A positive aspect of the formation of a habit is that it doesn’t rely on motivation. You’re bound to perform an action because your mind will feel that it’s the default thing to do. Habits have the power of disciplining our lives.
How Do Habits Form?
If you want more power over your habits, you need to know how they form. You can look at the formation of a habit through two lenses—the conscious and subconscious. Some behaviors are an automatic response that takes little energy or attention, which leads to subconscious habits. Some, on the other hand, take more energy and attention, are also known as conscious habits.
There are three factors that lead to the formation of habit:
All habits stem from some physical or mental trigger. Being aware of a trigger can help you initiate a habit appropriately. For example, an alarm clock is a trigger that helps you wake up early. You should use alarms to regularize the habit.
Routine is the defining principle of a habit. Without repetition of a behavioral action, you can’t form habits. If you want to consciously form or break a habit, you need to consider the behavioral actions that will change your habit. For example, if you want to cut back on your coffee consumption, you walk it off every time you get cravings. You learn new behavior through repetition and that slowly breaks an old habit.
Outcomes act as incentives for you to repeat a behavior. If you’re trying to develop new habits or minimize the bad ones, you should consider the outcome of that habit. Keep the outcome realistic so that it’s easier to track your progress. For example, if you want to create a good impression on your coworkers (outcome) start reaching the office early (change in routine).
What Are The Types Of Habits?
If you want to build better habits, you need to know about the four types of habits that influence decision-making:
These habits motivate us towards a chosen idea. They guide us and steer us towards a self-fulfilling journey that doesn’t rely on any end goal. While goals may be present, they aren’t the ultimate incentive. The journey becomes crucial, not the destination. For example, you switch to eco-friendly ways at home to promote sustainable living. Even the smallest action like carrying a cloth bag to avoid plastics is an achievement.
These are the habits we tend to break or change for the greater good. For example, smoking, procrastination and phone addiction are the things we’d like to avoid but find it difficult to get rid of them. But if you want to make conscious efforts and gain control over these bad habits, you need to mentally reframe them. For example, if your team has a bad habit of gossiping and you’re forced to be a part of the discussion, try to steer the conversation in a different direction by changing the topic.
When you make a conscious effort to repeat an activity, you develop conscious habits. They’re easy to recognize because you pay attention and review them yourself. For example, you regularly go to the gym because you’ve made a decision about personal health and fitness. The more attention you pay while developing these habits, the easier it becomes to track progress and measure your performance. Developing healthy conscious habits also lead to self-improvement.
Unconscious or hidden habits are tricky to navigate because we aren’t aware of them. You may say that our brains have an auto-pilot mode that influences our behaviors and actions. We aren’t in control of these habits, yet they make up the majority of our personal habits!
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to identify hidden habits.
Am I slouching or sitting straight?
Did I drink enough water today?
Have I done my exercise today?
Do I make and maintain healthy eye contact with others?
Have any of my gestures been offensive?
Did I intrude on anyone’s personal space while making conversation?
How do I deal with criticism and critical reviews of my work?
What is my first response to bad news?
How do I feel when my friends share their getaway stories on social media?
Do I organize and prioritize my tasks or jump right in?
How I judge what’s important and what’s not
Do I check my social media and email at frequent intervals?
What do I do every night before going to bed?
What do I do every morning after waking up?
How often do I consume unhealthy food during the day?
Time To Call The Shots!
We have the power to change habits and develop healthy ones through patience and practice. American psychologist William James suggests the following measures for effective habit formation:
Start your day on a good note. A good beginning is half the work. If waking up early and reading something pleasing makes you happy, then do it!
Regularize good habits. As conscious habits are easy to recognize and track, make a list of healthy habits that have been a part of your life. It’s time to make them a part of your daily routine.
Good habits depend on healthy surroundings. You can’t expect to pursue behavior change if everyone around you acts as an obstacle. Find people who will encourage and support you.
The Harappa Habits: Your Key To Development
Harappa Education has identified five core habits that will prepare you for the real world. Our Practicing Excellence course will teach you everything about leading yourself to success. The Eisenhower Matrix will teach you about establishing priorities while the 1% Rule framework will help you make small yet significant improvements. Lead yourself on a journey of excellence and exercise control over your habits!
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