It is astounding how insidious habits can be.

How they can sneak their way into your life and embed themselves without any conscious awareness. By the time you do become aware and want to alter or eliminate the habit, it’s like trying to pull an invasive weed from the garden.

It takes patience, persistence, and lots of effort.

Here are just a few of the habits I’ve heard folks complaining about lately:

  • Keeping email open all day or, worse yet, have the alerts set up to notify you every time a message hits your inbox
  • Having your phone next to you, even if on vibrate, when you are meeting with others
  • Mindlessly scrolling social media to the point that you’ve forgotten why you went onto the internet in the first place

 

The problem is when you find that these behavior patterns are not moving you in the direction of your vision. You may even find they are getting in the way of achieving your goals. You would think, though, that recognizing that a behavior no longer serves you would be enough to eliminate it, right? Wishful thinking!

Our brains are wired to recognize and reinforce patterns. Each time our brain can move something to auto-pilot it frees up space and energy for those more complicated endeavors. I liken this to sledding. The first time you go down the hill of fresh snow, it takes work and is slow going. But, once you’ve packed down that path, you can really fly! The difficulty comes when you try to turn off that path or create a new one altogether.

Sometimes, the easiest way to charge a habit is incrementally. For example, closing email for 15, 30, or 45 minutes to start. Or, setting a timer when you find yourself going down the internet rabbit hole.

Another approach is to tie this directly to your vision or goal. For example, “I’m going to close email for 30 minutes so that I can focus on mapping out my plan for the quarter.” Or, “I am going to limit myself to 30 minutes of researching courses that will help me develop my strategy skills.” At the end of 30 minutes, you might have your answer. If not, you can gather your thoughts to determine what additional information you might need and set aside time to research the answers to those questions.

Breaking habits, or even changing them, requires you to be more stubborn than the habit itself.