The How of Habits

We are what we repeatedly do. “_Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit_”. – Aristotle

pinkyHabits happen. Good or bad we get the habit of a thought, an exercise or an experience and we tend to repeat that experience. Whether it’s falling asleep without brushing our teeth, doing yoga every morning or looking at your phone the moment you wake up, habits happen through repeat performance. The question is, are you happy with your habits? And if not what do you do about it?

First: identify a few habits you appreciate and a couple you’d like to change. Be really specific. Give yourself true appreciation for the fact that you do drink 8 glasses of water a day or have successfully given up cigarettes. These things are still struggles for other people. Since you’ve got them done they kind of feel like no big deal. However when you’re facing a challenge to change or create a habit it’s good to remember your previous successes and glow in that success. Stand tall and take a proud credit for what you have accomplished.

Once you remember how good you are at changing a habit, be specific regarding which habits you’re ready to change. Be honest with yourself. If it is quitting smoking, that is a big one. Maybe it’s the only habit you’re going to change for a while. Maybe add something easy to give yourself an easy A might be a great encouragement. Whichever you decide to do, write it down with clear steps.

Your steps could be as simple as leaving the floss beside your toothbrush so you remember to use it every night, putting all your dental products on a nice tray by the sink, making a point of going to the sink the minute your pyjamas are on. Writing down your plan can help to solidify it. Change takes change. So if you want this January to be different, you have to do something differently.

Now you’ve written it down, how do you be accountable? You can use an external force like a personal trainer or friend who’s willing to positively cheer you on. You need to make certain whoever is your friendly “bully” that they won’t take no for an answer and that they’ll believe in you. Also that their cheering style works for you. No one actually wants to be annoying, so work with your “bully”. can simply commit to your hygienist this year to floss more and come in for your 6 month check up and cleaning. Be accountable to them since they can tell if you have been flossing just by looking at your gums.

Instead of trying to change everything at once, make small changes you could really stick with!

A technique we really like is Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break the Chain”. It’s so simple. Get a calendar. Pick a habit. Mark an X on the calendar everyday you complete the habit. As you collect X’s on the calendar, you’re building a longer and longer chain of habit building success. If you miss a day, that’s ok. Just restart the chain. Don’t wait for Monday or next month or sunshine. The next X just restarts the chain. Jerry used this habit to encourage himself to write comedy everyday… AND he was pretty successful.

There’s quite a debate regarding how long it takes to create a habit. We suggest being clear with your goals and use one of the techniques above. Also make it as enjoyable as possible. It’s something you plan to do for life so do what you can to make it easy on yourself.

Oh and don’t forget to floss.

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