How to Develop Better Habits for Change and Self Improvement

On this site, in the Solid Blog, on the Life Stuff 101 podcast and on Wellness Wednesdays on The Spin, we discuss ongoing strategies, ideas and plans for sustaining ongoing foundation for mental health and wellness.
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What’s the Secret to Making Changes?

Identifying areas for improvement and understanding the need to make a change is one thing, but how to go about making changes is a totally different thing altogether.

Developing Better Habits

Building better habits is the equivalent of the law of compound interest of self improvement.

Habits are the foundation for changes, whether it is for self care, better productivity or overall consistent and ongoing improvements.

Many of us are more often focused on goals and outcomes, with less emphasis given to the need for developing better habits and the continued ongoing process of engaging in helpful habits.

In my work, I often discuss the importance of process and the time it takes to make changes, but today’s discussion will be focused around the work of James Clear and his book, Atomic Habits, in which he has established more clearly defined systems around developing better habits.

Connecting Identity to Our Desirable Habits and Outcomes

It is difficult to connect the promise of a future outcome to motivation, as we can be more tempted by short-term satisfaction over longer-term promises. 

However, it is more meaningful when we can clearly connect our identity to our actions.

Your identity shapes your habits and your habits shapes your identity. Every habit is like a vote for the type of person you want to be.

For instance, ultimately the goal is to become a runner, not to run a 5k.

Making changes doesn’t come easily or quickly.  The key is to think about change as a process, rather than an immediate change.

Relishing Long Term Benefits

Humans are not naturally wired to prioritize long term benefits over immediate rewards therefore it’s more difficult to favour sustained work over immediate gratification.

And when we are striving for improvement, goals are necessary, they are not sufficient. The key is in the in process.

For that reason, the path to developing better habits looks more like this:
Identity => Process => Outcome

Four Laws of Behaviour Change

Adopting a desirable habit:
• Make it obvious – cue
• Make it attractive – craving
• Make it easy – response
• Make it satisfying – reward

Breaking an undesirable habit:
• Make it invisible
• Make it unattractive
• Make it difficult
• Make it unsatisfying

According to James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, he believes that there are two fundamental habits to develop: Exercise and reading.

Exercise because taking care of the physical self, can also be contributing factor to managing emotional health as well. And reading because it can help to be resourceful in solving any problems.

I would definitely agree with James Clear, but I would also add that developing a habit to also support mental well being is also important. Whether it’s setting aside time to make a habit of journaling, meditating, or engaging in talk therapy, I look at it as one of the foundational habits to help support the other helpful habits to build upon.

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