The key to lasting change

Most of the time we wished we didn’t have shortcomings, but if we were perfect we wouldn’t have challenges that end up creating for us the room we just need to improve.

What if we could change these bad habits into beneficial ones? What if we compounded our future self with a better present? Does the prospect of a better yourself excite you? There’s beauty in our imperfection.

Sometimes the source of our shortcomings is our bad habits, unknowingly or not. All of our actions have consequences, even those we take for granted, and their small results pile up over time, whether convenient to us or not.

Start with you

The path to evolution starts with a single step: Self-acceptance.

Self-acceptance is not for you to stay sorry forever. Nonetheless, there’s always the need for a baseline. You need to do an inventory analysis of what you already got, what tools you have for your change journey within yourself.

For those unknown spots, you may require a to talk to a friend to tell you sincerely, what they think you do that may be sabotaging yourself. If you’re to do this, make sure you do so with an open mind, as there might be hard truths to come on your way.

Let’s say you feel guilty about binging on too much Netflix. First, you need to hook on the behavior. Recognize you’re doing it and you’re about to do it again. Take note of how this bad habit makes you feel, swim deep into your emotions. Do you feel like you’re paying too much cost of opportunity? Missing out on perhaps… life?

Repression is counterproductive at dropping bad habits. That’s why you don’t need to punish yourself, guilt and self-pressure only add dead weight (stress) to your cargo, and you need to drop that as well. That’s where the self-acceptance argument comes from, guilt and self-pressure can’t actually be used effectively as a fuel to achieve your habit-changing objectives.

You might want to keep track of the habit itself or not, but I highly recommend it. A pen and paper journal works best for this, as you have to actually spell out the words of what you been doing.

Add some counterweight

First, you must recognize that without the emotional buy-in, this is not going to work. The bad habit makes you feel guilty, but how about the good habit? Does it make you joyful or stress-relieved?

Your bad habit is hooked onto an emotion, a quick shot of dopamine most likely. What else it’s a dopamine shot and is beneficial to you? Here are some examples: reading, going for a walk, going to the gym, meeting your family (or avoiding it!), among other good usages of your time. You can have some ideas from my Invest in yourself post.

What constitutes the counterweight? Here’s an easy formula:

the definition of new habit + its related emotions (your why) + consistency (accountability at doing it consistently)

So, now for a practical step: How’d you feel if you adopted the new habit? Why is it you want to do it? Reflect on it. Use daily reminders to build on your habit chain or your own brain inertia will kill your new habit before it even gets a breathing chance.

Also, make it easy for yourself. Can your new habit be done on your smartphone not just your computer? Download the mobile app. Your brain will start sending you signals of great opportunities, don’t miss out on these! It’s very important to build a great anchor on the new habit.

This advice only works if you’re milestone-driven, and that’s because you must proactively seek the change, or if you will: in the big scheme of things you must seek your evolution.

Present self vs. Future self

Let’s go ahead and present you with a business analogy: Gap analysis. The gap analysis, in an oversimplified definition, is just checking out your current state against your desired state which is at some point in the future. This also includes a thorough analysis of what you need to achieve that desired state.

Start with some questions: What is the cadence you want to introduce changes? (Quarterly, Biannually, Annually) and most importantly: Do your actions truly connect and/or impact positively the achievement of your desired state? Prioritize the most impactful ones as well. Is there too much friction in your actions towards building the habit? Simplify your steps of the process. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

What works for me is to introduce one or two at most changes in my life quarterly. Also, the recommended changes for this quarter become a requirement for the next one. Again, if you fail the milestone for this quarter, you don’t need to punish yourself, you just need to assess better what really was the root cause: Maybe you need to cancel that streaming video account altogether? Avoid exposing yourself to temptations, not that we are weak-willed, but it kills your small steps progress pretty quickly.

Conclusion

Several components of you play a role in your role to evolution. So far we’ve covered 3 pieces: recognizing your habits, hooking onto a new one, and Gap Analysis, which serves as the glue of both, providing a path to lasting change.

Give yourself the chance to succeed. Cheers!