Occasionally I meet someone who did a 'total personal makeover.' In the space of a few weeks or months, they: 1) started exercising; 2) ate better; 3) read more books; 4) learned a new hobby . . .
Good for that person, I say. Here's the problem, though. That's not how it works for most of us most of the time. That's because effective self-change relies on habit change.
Habits are highly ingrained behaviors. They are almost automatic.
Changing one habit is hard enough. Trying to change more than one at a
time is often a recipe for disaster. So, despite the occasional example to the contrary, my advice is to focus on one habit at a time.
What Went Right?
certainly, that's how you managed to change yourself last time. You
decided to get a new habit, and you worked on it. Hard. There were
'back slides' and there were times that you didn't think you could do
it. But you did. Getting that new habit was the key
to your success. If you wanted to do better at work, perhaps your new
habit was an early arrival. If you wanted to be healthier, maybe you
worked on cooking from scratch more.
Regardless of what the habit was, focusing exclusively on it was a good idea.
because habits are highly ingrained behaviors. They're almost
automatic. That means that they are extremely hard to change. They're
hard to change because they are supposed
to be hard to change. Normally, we depend on them not to change. That
means it's going to take a lot of effort to replace an old habit with a
good one. That's also why it is hard to get a new one. If new habits
'took' the first couple of times, we could have a lot of less than
useful habits cluttering up our repertoires!
habits are virtually automatic, they do something else for you. They
free up your will-power so that you can focus on other matters. If you
want to change a habit, or introduce a new one, that's going to take a
big bunch of will-power. The problem, as I've written about before, is
that will-power is a limited resource
and that's where the challenge lies. You're going to need to decide to
focus your energies on the habit-change. I'll have more to say on how
to use your will-power, and how to get
more of it, in coming posts but it does behoove us at this point to
remain mindful of the fact that changing a habit, or getting a new one,
is a tough business. Why on Earth, then, would you try to change more than one at a time?
Went Right Last Time? You didn't spread yourself too thin. You worked
hard, consciously and deliberately. You got your new habit and
self-change was your reward.