I argue that the key to leading your best life, achieving big things and being your best self is largely about being congruent (your real self matching your ideal self). However, we are not always in the habit of being congruent. According to Charles Duhigg, author of ‘The Power of Habit’, habits are the patterns of behaviour and unthinking rituals that we have established over our lives. ‘Unthinking’ is the operative word here. Without conscious thought we will invariably opt for the more pleasant experiences and routines until these form ‘ruts’ in our brains and our days.
If these habits are incongruent with our ideal self, then these are ‘bad’ habits. Simple. Unfortunately, many of our habits have been formed around pleasant, rewarding experiences, not all of which are good, healthy or congruent. You know which I mean (sleeping in; eating chocolate; drinking wine; eating white chocolate and raspberry muffins at the local expresso cafe…. OK – now you know mine – what are yours!)
Good habits are often those that require a heavy dose of discipline and an ability to defer gratification. In previous posts, I have discussed the power of habits to remove decisions from your day – because decisions take time and energy which dwindles as the day goes on so you end up making crappy decisions and poor choices by 3pm in the afternoon (incongruent choices that is).
Creating a good habit, like getting up early and exercising, that becomes unthinking and non-negotiable, will not only make you look good eventually, it also makes you feel good almost immediately: a reward that will reinforce the behaviour into habit. Sounds simple enough.
So, why is it that it is the good habits we feel motivated to form at the start, we only break just when they start feeling routine – or habitual?? I know why that happens to me. I suffer from shiny object syndrome. The thing that I love most is ‘new’ and ‘different’ – it is change. In most cases, I am loitering around the ‘innovator’ or ‘early adopter’ end of Rogers curve of innovation. Which makes habits that are not entirely pleasant difficult to form. I get bored as soon as something starts settling into a habit. I have a very low boredom threshold.
And here in lies the problem. What do people who suffer ‘shiny object syndrome’ need to do to form good habits that are not always immediately rewarding or pleasant?
Duhigg says the anatomy of a habit comprises a trigger, the action/behaviour, and the reward. To change or form a habit, you need to be conscious of each part of the habit loop, and tinker with it. So to form a new health habit, identify a trigger for the new habit and a reward once it is performed. For me, I get up at 5am (trigger – yuk – this is a challenge), do either yoga or a video exercise routine (I need to mix it up or I get bored!), and then have an interesting breakfast (which I can think about while exercising – yum).
What congruent habits do you want to form?