How To Overcome Old Habits

It is said that ‘old habits die hard’. Let us discover how far it is true and what can be done to change it.

Each of us has habits we would like to change but despite putting in lots of effort, we are unable to do so. We make resolutions but they last only for a few days, and sometimes only for a few hours.

Why does this happen?

The problem is not in the intention but in the method adopted. We all experience moments in our lives that fill us with positive energy which inspires us to change. These may be triggered by some inspirational personality, a movie, an article, a book, etc. We commit ourselves to change and make promises and resolutions. However, these promises and resolutions are not methodically translated into a process. We do not formalize it into a systematic plan that can be executed. As the heat of the moment passes, there is nothing left, to keep us on track and this results in failure.

Any Change passes through three phases

Realization: There is a deep-rooted need to change. A feeling that things/habits should not continue the way it is now. Realization starts when I decide to change irrespective of the situation or person around me.

Motivated Implementation: This is where the actual change starts. We slowly start bringing in the change or at least make preparations. Suppose, I want to increase my fitness, I start going for morning walks or join a yoga class. I start reading articles on fitness. I’d envision myself being fit and experience the joy.

Consistent Reconfirmation and Course Correction: This is the most important phase. We need to have regular checkpoints in our schedules where we analyze the progress, take corrective measures if required and re-motivate ourselves. This should be a part of the daily routine. I could have posters around my workspace, calendar reminders, and regular discussions with a trusted friend or mentor, maintain a journal, or anything which serves the purpose.

Most of us make a great start but falter, at the last step. It is because we haven’t spent time analyzing and taking corrective measures due to the busy lives we lead.

How to analyze the progress?

Once we have initiated the change and have made some progress it is important to analyze it in an objective way. Most of us get critical and look at the things we are yet to complete or have failed to achieve, instead of looking at what we have achieved. This causes exhaustion and disappointment. It is equally important to appreciate what we have achieved, however small it may be. This gives us the power to move ahead and take steps to correct our failures.

Be Practical and Patient: Mostly our resolves have a lot of enthusiasm and we expect quick results. We want things to change overnight. This is not practical. Any change takes time. Any challenge that we take up will have difficulties. Failures are a part of it. We should be prepared to face them in advance. Sit back and analyze them and find practical solutions. Don’t expect magic to happen. Realistic expectations can keep up the enthusiasm going for long time, as they are based on facts, and not just on wishful thinking.

The best teacher is past experience – learn from it

Most of us don’t want to re-visit our past. This mainly happens because revisiting the past is accompanied by a feeling of fear, pain, and rejection. This keeps us away from the valuable experiences and learnings our past has to offer. Meditation not only helps dilute the pain but also teaches us to watch our past as detached observers. E.g. someone who has tried to lose weight multiple times in the past, but has failed. As a detached observer analyze what led to the failure – lack of consistency, expecting quick results, not tracking the progress, bad company, giving in to unhealthy food, etc. Then take corrective measures to not repeat these mistakes in the present and future. Resulting in better chances to succeed.

Self-motivation plays a very important role in changing old habits. Here are a few insights on self-motivation.