Day 57: Deliberately shaping habits

Having spent 20 years as a corporate trainer, I’m certain of one thing: We are a product of our habits and, most of the time, we don’t even know what those habits are.

People often look at their lives and feel disatisfied but rarely trace that dissatisfaction back to the tiny, everyday things that ultimately make a big difference. The same was true for me.

When I became a parent, I struggled massively. I gave up work and in doing so, lost my income and my identity. I got depressed and ‘couldn’t be bothered’ with day to day things. What I failed to notice was that my habits were making me weak instead of resilient, snappy and impatient instead of calm and kind, scared instead of curious. These habits included negative self-talk, drinking alcohol, eating junk food and moaning a lot. I stopped exercising, stopped writing and stopped many of the other practices I had enjoyed when I was child-free.

It wasn’t until I began to pay attention to those habits and reintroduce some of the good ones that things began to turn around. Improvements happened organically and one improvement seemed to lead to the next. I started paying attention to the patterns that emerged with each success and asking better questions. What led me to have mornings where I could spring out of bed, happy to be me? What made it possible for me to respond with kindness, curiosity and generosity when my children did something that might otherwise send me over the edge? What made me feel like treating my health as a priority?

Practice makes permanent.

Jim Kwik

No matter whether it’s parenting, diet, mindset or playing guitar, practice does not make perfect. It makes permanent. You could have a habit of playing the piano every day of your life but that doesn’t automatically make you good at playing the piano. Your level of skill is determined by the quality of your practice.

The same is true about habits. Our level of life satisfaction is determined by the quality of our habits and when it comes to high quality habits, there is one thing they have in common: They are deliberate; intentional.

I created the ‘Habit Cube’ for exactly that purpose – to make deliberate changes to my habits. I made it a cube because the elements don’t necessarily have to be dealt with in a particular order. It was also an easy way to show the interaction between the elements because no matter what you do, there is always a knock on effect.

I’ll explain all that in later blog posts, but for now, I’ll explain the 6 elements that make up the Habit Cube and intentional habit change.

Introducing the Habit Cube

Cube Image-4In my experience, awareness of these 6 elements – and the interplay between them – made the process of habit change easier, more fun and more rewarding.

  1. Design: Consider how the habit fits into your life, why it matters and what you value.
  2. Plan: Most people are too optimistic when planning. The best plans are the ones that work even when you lost motivation and want to give up. Plan for the worst version of you – since that’s usually who has to do the difficult stuff.
  3. You: This is a BIG element. Your identity, beliefs, mindset, self-talk, mental health and physical health all fit in here. When it comes to habits, it is important to shape your identity and beliefs deliberately for success. You HAVE to buy in to your ability to do this and you need an identity that supports the change.
  4. Network: Surrounding yourself with like-minded people/ people who support what you’re doing / value what you value / are doing what you’re doing makes it easier to move forward, learn, get your questions answered and gather support when you need it.
  5. Environment: Consider your surroundings and your interactions with the things related to your habit. For example, if you’re giving up alcohol, will you find it easier to remove alcohol from your home? If you’re developing the habit of positive self-talk, will it help to have visual reminders on your mirror etc. No matter what the habit, one great tip for managing your environment it to keep it clean and tidy. Your brain functions better when you are not surrounded by distractions.
  6. Adapt: If you notice things that aren’t working, change them.

I used the Habit Cube to quit alcohol – and have barely struggled at all, which was a HUGE surprise – and I’m about to use it again to quit sugar.

If you think it might help you shape your habits deliberately, I’ll be sharing worksheets and videos in the coming weeks to help you put it into practice.

I really hope you find it useful!

 

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