Dawn has broken. The distant crow of a rooster could be heard. The morning sun rays shone into the house through the sash windows. Alfie, the scruffy 5-year-old fawn lurcher, opened one eye and let out a wide silent yawn. He then stood up and stretched his supple body, first the front legs like the yoga down dog posture then the back legs followed. He then walked to the back door and exited through the crack that had been deliberately left open for him. He sniffed the bush on the right like he always does, proceeded to release a stream of warm urine accumulated in the night, and walked into the house and waited by his dog bowl and barked three short sharp barks as if saying, “Hello, people! Time to wake up and feed me! Where is my breakfast?”
This routine has been the same for as long as Alfie can remember. He has perfected this routine to the tee, doing exactly what he has to do to achieve his goals of waking up, loosening his muscles and joints, emptying his bladder, and getting fed. His routine has become his habit.
What is your routine like? What are your habits like? More importantly, do your habits serve you?
Habits are interesting things. Habits are simply modern-day solutions to your deep-seated problems. They are like short cuts to solve a problem. For example, you may have developed a habit like checking you have the three cardinal items (keys, wallet, phone) before leaving anywhere whether it is your house or office. I know I actually chant it out like, “Keys, wallet, phone”. This habit has served me countless times and when I get distracted and not do it, it is when I pay the price of forgetting one of them.
So, habits can be extremely useful. The problem lies when habits are non-functional or do not serve you to help. Instead, it can be quite destructive and sometimes, even harmful. For example, drinking as a daily habit after work, over-eating, smoking, self-harm, berating oneself excessively, and many more. These habits do not serve you to make you feel better and to step into the better version of you. Instead, they only make you feel worse. In this case, those habits do not serve you.
Have you assessed your habits recently? Have you stopped and simply consider what you do every day and why? More importantly, have you examined the results your habits are bringing? If you are not sure how to do so, it is really easy. Look around you. What you see in your life is the result of your decisions and actions. The epiphany lies in that most of your decisions and actions are actually your habits. Let’s take a tiny example. Take a look at your bed. Is it all neatly made up? Or is your duvet just crumpled in the corner, ready to be slept in again? I am not passing judgment here, simply stating that how your bed is like when you are not in it is the result of your habit. If you have a habit of making your bed when you wake up, your bed will look all made up. If you do not, your bed will look otherwise.
Let’s use another example, like your health. What you eat, how much you consume, how much you exercise, how much you have unhealthy habits like excessive alcoholism, smoking, drugs are habits that result in your health. If your habit is to consistently eat healthily and have measures to take care of your health, the likely result is that you will be healthy. Conversely, the opposite is true.
Remember that you do not decide on your future. You decide your habits and your habits decide your future. The biggest reason why people fail at making and maintaining good habits is because they have not change their self-image. Behaviour that is incongruent with the self will not last. You have to determine what sort of person you want to be. Once you have done so, you have to reaffirm your identity. The reality is unless you have believed and become the person you want to be internally, it is not possible to reflect nor sustain your external choices and actions.
The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.
True behaviour change is identity change. You might start a habit because of motivation, but the only reason you will stick with one is that it becomes part of your identity. Improvements are only temporary until they become a part of who you are.
A tip for you to start a habit would be using words of affirmation. For example, if you wanting to reduce your weight from 80kg to 60kg, instead of simply trying the latest fad, write down, “I am 60kg” daily at least twice. To be even more effective, say it out loud after you write it. By writing it down and saying it out loud to yourself, you are affirming to yourself what person you are. When you keep doing that, something magical happens. Your external actions will alter such that it will be aligned with your inner self. When your behaviour and identity are fully aligned, you are no longer looking for behavioural change. You are simply acting and being like the person you already believe yourself to be.
This works for any other habit you wish to develop too, from being a great parent to your finances and from business to your personal life. Alfie has decided on his habits. What habits are you planning on developing?
‘The process of building habits is actually the process of becoming you.’ – James Clear
Comment below your most powerful habit.