Every morning I wake up and take out the dog, make a smoothie, get some coffee, and get my husband’s lunch packed.
That’s only part of my morning routine. It happens every single day because all of those things are habits that help me.
I have other habits I don’t like including getting seconds at dinner when I’m full and eating too much sugar.
Life is full of good and bad habits.
So how can you break bad habits and start good habits? How can you learn the power of changing your habits and actually succeed?
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It Feels Impossible to Harness the Power of Changing Your Habits
We have all been there. We want to start a habit that we know will improve our lives but our efforts don’t give us immediate results, life gets in the way, and we lose our motivation. It seems like the power of changing your habits is beyond you and you give up.
I know I have been losing the same 20 pounds and trying to learn Spanish for years now. It can be so hard to stay motivated when you are trying to continue protecting and promoting your health. It can be hard to make time to learn new things too.
So does that mean that all good habits are doomed to failure and all bad habits are here to stay? Absolutely not! You can achieve your goals! What can help you?
I highly recommend Atomic Habits by James Clear. In his book, James Clear explains how a habit that is very small can be very powerful. He explains everything you need to know to have the to power of changing your habits. And when you change your habits you can change your life!
This post is by no means a replacement for the book so click here to grab Atomic Habits by James Clear!
I Just Don’t Have the Willpower
Have you started a good habit and failed? Have you ever tried to break a bad habit and then given up?
Did you tell yourself that you just didn’t have the willpower and discipline? Or you thought maybe you just didn’t want it enough. I know I have been there.
Guess what though, James Clear says the power of changing your habits has nothing to do with willpower or drive. No one has extraordinary willpower. The people who succeed at what they set out to achieve do not do it because they are superheroes. They simply know how to set themselves up for success! They understand how to break bad habits and start good habits because they make the good habits easy and the bad habits hard!
That thought alone, the fact that you don’t have to have super wonderful extra amazing willpower, is very encouraging!
That means that anyone can succeed! Even us normal, eat an entire candy bowl in one sitting, types of people can succeed!
Even though you don’t think it’s possible you can have the power of changing your habits!
So How Do Use the Power of Changing Your Habits to Create GOOD Habits?
In Atomic Habits, James clear sets out a 4 step process for starting good habits and making them stick. These four steps are the key to having the power of changing your habits. They are very important because they work with the way our brain works, instead of against our nature.
Make It Obvious:
The first part of harnessing the power of changing your habits is to make your new habit obvious. You are not going to leave ANYTHING up to chance. How do you do that?
One way is to make a clear plan for how, when, and where you will do a habit. You don’t just say: “I want to work out more.”. Instead, you plan on taking a twenty-minute walk in the park by your work at lunch every day. You have to get super specific so that you know exactly what you are going to do.
Another way to make a habit obvious is to attach it to something else you already do. This is called habit stacking.
For example, I already told you I wake up, potty the dog, make our smoothies, and get my husband’s lunch packed. Those are habits I have to do. But I have attached habits I want to do to that stack.
So while we have our smoothie we do our daily Bible reading together, then as he finishes getting ready I learn Spanish on Duolingo, and then when he leaves I play my violin for at least 10 minutes and then get ready for my day.
It sounds like a lot but all of these things happen because they are stacked together. I don’t even think about it. I just do it. And guess what? I’m finally learning Spanish!
The last thing you need to make your habit stick is you need to make the things you need readily available and visible. Set out your workout clothes the night before. Keep your water bottle at your desk. Put a book by your bed.
Whatever you want to do, make sure that the stuff you need for it is staring you right in the face. That gives you the right momentum and cues to have the power of changing your habits and starting a good habit!
Make It Attractive:
Once you have taken these steps to make your habit obvious it will become pretty hard to make up excuses but unless you actually want to do your new habit it can be difficult to stay motivated.
That’s when you have to make your good habit attractive. How do you do that? How do you make a new habit that is difficult and offers long-term rewards but no in-the-moment satisfaction attractive enough?
One way is to connect your new habit to something you enjoy. For example, if you are trying to get in the habit of journaling plan to do it with a cup of tea. Or you could make your exercise something you really enjoy by listening to really good music during your workout or always having a hot bath afterward.
Another great way to change the way you look at your habit is to find a group of people who make the thing you are trying to do seem normal and enjoyable. If you are trying to exercise more hang out with active people. When you are trying to be more creative spend time with other people who are into art. If you are around the people who do what you want to do you will feel more motivated!
Giving yourself motivation with rewards and a good environment is key to having the power of changing your habits because we don’t do things that don’t pay off in some way. On the other hand we can get addicted to things that do!
Make it Easy:
When you are trying to build a good habit you have to make it as easy as possible! That’s why James Clear recommends making every new habit only 2 minutes long at first.
This was a new and refreshing idea for me. I think we all try to do it perfect right away but we end up burning out.
If we start small we build the habit of showing up to do the work. Once we are in the habit of showing up, growing the habit and doing it for longer will be easy!
Another way to make it easy is to figure out how to reduce the number of steps it takes to get started. Choose the gym that is close to your house or even better find an easy home workout. Have healthy snacks prepared so it’s easy to keep your healthy habits. Have your journal by where you drink your morning coffee.
Whatever you can do to make it easy to do your habit will help you to get to it regularly.
You simply will not have the power of changing your habits if it feels like an uphill climb. You have to set yourself up for success.
Make it Satisfying:
James Clear goes on to explain that our brains are hard-wired to keep doing things that bring immediate satisfaction. The trouble is a lot of good habits don’t bring immediate satisfaction but instead, long-term rewards. That’s why we have to set up systems to make our good habits more satisfying.
We can find ways to reward ourselves for achieving our habits. For example, when I finish exercising I always take a hot shower. That makes exercising a satisfying path to a relaxing reward. You could also make your goal satisfying by tracking it in a habit tracker or a calendar. I have learned that I will do anything for a star in my planner! Last but not least tell yourself you did a good job!
Use the Power of Changing Your Habits Against Bad Habits!
We all want to start good habits but sometimes we also have to break bad habits to achieve our goals. For example, if you want to learn Spanish you have to get into the good habit of studying but you also have to get out of the bad habit of mindlessly scrolling on Instagram the whole time you drink your coffee in the morning. Ok, maybe that’s just me. But I’m sure you get the point.
So how do you use the power of changing your habits that you just learned to break bad habits? With the same four steps you use to start good habits! You are just going to need to reverse those steps. Let’s see how that works.
Instead of Making It Obvious, Make it Invisible:
So remember how you set out your workout clothes, put a journal in the spot where you have your morning coffee, or put a book you want to read by your bed? You are going to do the opposite with the cues for your bad habits. You’re going to remove them or hide them.
For example, if you eat too much junk food don’t buy it the next time you are at the store. If you have a habit of opening up Social Media and wasting time put time limits on Social media apps on your phone. Put the TV remote away. Don’t allow alchohol in your home.
Whatever you have to do, hide the cues that make your bad habit easy. The power of changing your habits lies in the environment you create and whether it facilitates or blocks that habit.
Make it Unattractive
Making your bad habit unattractive can be challenging. After all, you probably do it because it brings immediate satisfaction. For that reason, you have to focus on all the long-term reasons you want to quit doing it.
You have to focus on how bad smoking or drinking is for your health instead of the immediate satisfaction it may bring you. Maybe you have to think about how that second helping or that froofy coffee will look on your waistline if you continue having it every day. Or perhaps you have to think about why you are trying to save money today for your big goals tomorrow.
In any case, make your bad habit unattractive by focusing your mindset on all the reasons you want to break that bad habit. If you want the power of changing your habits and breaking bad habits you have to focus on all the bad effects of those bad habits.
Make it Difficult
Most of our bad habits come easily to us. We get on our phones and accidentally scroll social media for way too long. We crash on the couch and binge-watch TV, or we just skip the gym and pick up takeout. We do these things because they are easy. So change it up. Make it hard!
How? If you watch too much TV, unplug it and take the batteries out of the remote each time. To make it a little harder to order take out throw away all your menus and delete food delivery apps. If you have a problem with Social media delete those apps from your phone or set time limits.
The goal is to make your bad habit difficult so throw a couple of extra steps between you and the habit and you might find yourself skipping it more often.
Make it Dissatisfying
Here comes the fun part. The fact that you have to admit is that you don’t have the power of changing your habits without some sort of external help.
If you are going to break a bad habit you are going to have to be accountable to someone. If you tell a good friend or a few good friends that you are trying to quit a habit and tell them every time you mess up, it won’t be very fun to mess up.
If you really need to get serious you can make a contract with yourself and sign it. You can make your punishment for messing up doing something you really dislike or paying a chunk of money to your accountability partner.
The point of making your habit dissatisfying is that you are trying to counteract the immediate reward your bad habit has been giving you. That is how it keeps you under its hold. Make it dissatisfying and you will break your bad habit!
The power of changing your habits has a lot to do with changing the reward system so that you get little satisfaction from bad habits and lots of satisfaction from the better habits that replace them!
How To Use the Power of Changing Your Habits Even When You “Fail”
The thing about habits is they are hard to make and feel impossible to break. That is because we all mess up sometimes. We have a glass of wine when we are trying not to drink and we blow off our workout. I know it’s been a challenge for me to remember to learn Spanish every single day for the last year.
That’s why I love James Clear’s advice. It’s simple and completely doable. Do not miss twice. You can miss your good habit or slide backward on your bad habit one day but don’t do it two days in a row. That way you never use a slip as an excuse to give up. If I had stuck to this rule years ago I can only imagine the good habits I would have and the bad habits I wouldn’t! It would have kept me from giving up all those times!
Also, if you are keeping track of your habits you will be less likely to miss a day because you won’t want to break your streak. Think about grabbing a planner or downloading a habit tracking app and tracking the days you don’t do your bad habit. Plan a reward for a streak.
The power of changing your habits might just lie in something as simple as a sticker in your planner for the days you succeed!
Tie Your Identity to It
So now that you know how to create systems to start good habits and break bad habits you can make a clear plan and get started. It’s exciting, isn’t it? But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
Sometimes we eat a giant bowl of ice cream because we tell ourselves we are a fat person and that’s what fat people do. Or maybe we tell ourselves we are never going to go anywhere so we don’t need to learn Spanish. In effect, we are tying our bad habits to our identity and we have decided that our identity, the type of person we are, can’t be changed. That holds us back.
But if you want to change, you are going to have to think differently. You can change! You can be a healthy person! The day will come when you travel and use Spanish! You are the type of person who can do this. Every time you find yourself making excuses for yourself because of your past identity tell yourself that you are the person you want to become! Train your brain to believe it by sticking to your tiny habits every single day.
When you tie your habits to your identity you get your sense of pride involved and you don’t want to be someone you are not. If you are a healthy person you don’t want to have a giant bowl of ice cream and blow off your workout! When you believe you will travel you want to learn Spanish every day. You don’t want to be someone you are not. You are the person you are becoming and you can do it.
When you tie your identity to the habit you want to break or the habit you want to create you won’t feel like yourself unless you are doing it! Because of that you will finally have the power of changing your habits and transforming your life for the better!
The Power of Changing Your Habits Will Change Your Whole Life!
I found James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, very inspiring and that’s why I wanted to share it with you! Please go grab the book and listen to or read it as soon as possible!
I have already instituted several habits since I read the book and all the great advice and inspiration from the book has helped me stick to them. I know they will help you to break bad habits and start good habits too!
I know you can be the person you want to be, and atomic habits, are the key. Once you learn the power of changing your habits you’re whole life will change for the better! Finally you will have the happy simple life you have been dreaming of!
What are some ways you help yourself stick to new habits? Please share your great tip in the comments below!