Seven steps to creating new habits (part 1)

By John Brant | 18th September 2016
A photo of a group engaging in excersize with hand held weights

Many of us have had a rest or a change of routine over the summer holidays and so September is a great time of year to check in with ourselves, get back to basics and get inspired by making good some new habits. In this article we set out the first four of seven steps to mastering new habits (which can also help us get back into some good habits!).

This article suggests two key steps for raising your awareness before committing to an important new habit. We also unveil two key secret steps to making change easy for yourself. Next month’s article will also give you three steps for putting new habits into long term practice.

So, set aside some quiet time when you know you will not be disturbed, grab your notebook and a pen, get curious and settle down to work through the first four steps.

Developing Your Awareness

Step 1. Get Clear on What You Want and Why

Many times we have problems implementing new habits because we have not really considered the implications. Clarity is key to defining good habits so we recommend spending the time to really consider your choices carefully. For our life makeover retreats we consider what “resources” are consumed through your current choices. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where and how much time is taken up with my current/old choices? How much time is saved by my current/old choices?
  • Where and how much of my energy is taken up with my current/old choices? How much of my energy is saved through my current/old choices?
  • Where and how much money is taken up with my current/old choices? How much money is saved through my current/old choices?

If you can do this exercise now you will start to see the potential benefits and pitfalls of your current habits. No choices are inherently “bad” choices, they all have an upside and it can be useful to see that now before committing to a new habit. For example, sitting in watching TV can reduce our fitness levels (energy) and take up a lot of our time (time) – however it can also help us recharge our batteries (energy) and doesn’t cost us anything (money)! In the same way, it can be delusional to think that there are no downsides to a new “positive” habit. Therefore consider the opposite view too:

  • Where and how much time would be taken up with my new choice? How much time will be saved by my new choice?
  • Where and how much energy would be taken up with my new choice? How much energy will be saved by my new choice?
  • Where and how much money would be taken up with my new choice? How much money will be saved by my new choice?

Of course, you may find with this simple exercise that there are not enough upsides to changing your habits – and it is a good thing to find out now (rather than spending months or years beating yourself up about it!). Be as brutally honest as you can and devote some focused time. It may save you a lot of problems in the long run.

Step 2. Confirm what the benefits are to you of introducing a new habit

Step 1 involves getting a fuller perspective on your choices. Step 2, is intended to help you lock in motivation for your new habit.

So, list the things that are important to you in your life. These are things that you devote your time, energy and money towards in your everyday life. Make a list of 20 or more things than you can think of. For example, maybe you regularly go for a run, watch movies, or spend a lot of time at work.

Next, consider what it is that you love about each item identified and categorise it into the areas that you love. We are looking to create a list of seven categories. For example, if you love to watch romantic films and also spending time with your husband you might note that these are linked to relationships (so relationships would end up being a category on your top seven categories list), or perhaps you spend time and energy with your family and love watching soap operas and you see that the broader theme it is the family dynamic that you love (and so family would end up on your top seven list). Let’s call this list of seven categories your values list.

The final part of step 2 is to link the new habit you want to your top values (which are the seven items you have just identified). Consider the following question: How will developing this new habit help me towards what I want to do in my life? So for example, if one of your top values is “fun and entertainment” and you want to create a habit of going to the gym ask yourself “How can going down the gym help me have more fun and entertainment in my life?”. Become curious and creative and aim to identify a minimum of 30 ways in which developing this new habit will help you get what you really want in life – which is a life aligned with your top seven values.

Setting Yourself Up to Win

Step 3. Looking for Congruency with what is Important to You and Others

When we try and implement new habits sometimes we can sabotage ourselves because two or more of the things we want seem to be conflicted. For example, we might realise that although we want to develop the habit of going to the gym (e.g. for weight loss) we find that this seems to take us away from something else important to us (e.g. time with our family).

Therefore, take a moment to write down all the possible conflicts you can see between your new habit and other things that are important to you or others (consider in the context of your values you have identified in section 2 but also consider any other conflicts that you can see).

The final step is positively linking the two congruently. So aim write down 20 answers for the following two open questions: Firstly, how will my new habit help support what it seems most in conflict with and secondly reverse to ask how will doing what it seems most in conflict with help me support my new habit.

This is best illustrated with an example, so using the same example above, we would firstly ask “How will going down the gym help support time with my family?”. Secondly we would ask “How will me spending time with my family help support me going down the gym?”. These questions can seem a little strange at the start but if you explore and keep an open mind you will be able to see how in fact these initially conflicting things can indeed be seen to support each other.

Step 4. Creating an unconscious habit

When we first learn how to drive, we must of course learn to do it consciously. Initially it is hard work, but eventually we start to form an unconscious “habit” in our driving. In other words, eventually we don’t even have to think about our driving – the process of driving is stored in our unconscious minds. By definition we are not consciously aware of our unconscious minds but this is where the power of habits lies. The more we can work at getting congruency at the unconscious level, the more likely it is that our new habits will stick.
What we really want is congruency between our conscious desires and the habits stored in our unconscious minds. For this to happen most effectively we need to be able to communicate effectively with our unconscious minds. In our experience the most effective ways to communicate directly with our unconscious minds are through vision boarding or hypnosis techniques.

Check out our recent article “All You Need to Know About Visionboarding” to help you design a vision board to communicate with your unconscious. In next month’s article (Part 2) we will describe how to do self-hypnosis to maximize your chances of installing the new habits you desire.

We’ve covered quite a lot so we it’s time to stop, reflect and take action! We suggest you get to work on the above exercises to first build awareness and congruency – getting ready to transform your conscious desires unconscious habits! Keep an open mind and have fun with the exercises. Until next month….

To your Health and Wellbeing
John, Life Coach at La Crisalida Retreats

Read related blog articles:
Why willpower does not work for changing your habits and what does
Positive thinking versus purposeful thinking

Headshot of John Brant - Retreat Founder at La Crisalida Retreats
John Brant

John is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. He leads our life makeover programme as well as overseeing the retreats.

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