Old habits die hard (but die they can and will)


I had gotten into the habit of eating fast food pretty much every day. Often a bag of chips was part of my dinner. It shouldn’t have surprised me then, that one day I stepped onto the scales to find my weight had moved past the 100 kg mark. A mark I never thought I would reach. That day I started work on changing my fast food habit. 

A habit is a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up. It’s not just about things we do, but also about how we feel and what we believe.

In a way forming a habit is our brain’s way of making life easier for us. By almost automating our reaction to a certain situation or occurrence a routine is set in motion after which we get our reward. Even when we don’t consciously experience any kind of reward, part of us is happy, because we just saved ourselves a whole lot of energy by not really having to pay attention to what we were doing.

Think for example of riding a bike.

Remember how hard you had to concentrate when you were learning to ride one? No wonder it was hard for you to also pay attention to other people and traffic around you. All your attention was on staying upright, not falling off and not riding into a wall or tree.

By now riding a bike is probably like walking to you. You don’t think; you just do. Plenty of time to pay attention to traffic and your surroundings. Hell, you can even carry on a meaningful conversation while doing it and still manage not to run into a tree or brick wall.

My fast food habit

I had gotten into my fast food habit for the ease of it. I was on the road often and instead of taking time to sit in a restaurant and have a decent lunch, I got my lunch at a drive-through place. Getting my lunch ‘to-go’ meant I could continue my journey while eating at the same time. (See how the habit of driving a car was helping out here?)

The bag of chips as part of my dinner was a way of not having to do a lot of cooking when I finally got home. Not that I mind cooking; I quite like it actually. Usually I got home so late though; I was just too tired or couldn’t be bothered to make myself a proper meal. Having chips was just so much easier.

To break this habit of opting for the ease of fast food I decided to supplant my habit with a new one. It took a conscious effort of monitoring what I ate every day and great awareness around what reward my new habit was bringing me, but when I finally reached 75 kg I felt better than I had in years!!

Fitting into a 32″ jeans instead of needing a 36″ jeans helped too!!

Almost 15 years later I never eat fast food anymore; I wear 33″ jeans and still monitor what I eat. It has become my new habit.

How habits help

Habits save us time. They keep our minds free to concentrate on other things. It comes as no surprise therefore that our brains will try to set up habits whenever it can. After all, why do things the hard way, when it can be made easy?

When you start looking for all the habits you’ve formed over the years, you’ll be amazed at how many you’ve got.

Related Post: 3 Things to Conquer Fear and Live Your Own Life

Living up to expectations

Living up to other people’s expectations can become as much of a habit as riding a bike.

After all we start learning about other people’s expectations at a really young age. We are toddlers still when we’re made aware of what is expected from us by the adults that surround us. We become really good at anticipating the desired response or behaviour. So good in fact that we don’t even spend time thinking about it anymore. We just do.

As we grow up other expectations are added into the mix. By our teachers. By our trainers. By our friends. By our employers. By society.

Some of those expectations you ignore, but many of them will eventually become habits. Habits you only become aware of when someone questions why you do what you do the way you do it.

There is nothing necessarily wrong about having certain habits, about living up to certain expectations. It becomes a different matter when doing so is detrimental to your physical or mental well-being. That’s when the time has come to change

The habits you want to change 

If you’re just about done living up to other people’s expectations and you want to change the habit of doing so, it’s important to go through a couple of steps.

  1. identify the habit you want to change
  2. identify what reward is attached to this habit. In other words, why do you do what you do? Peace of mind, feeling good, control, relieves boredom or something else?
  3. identify what cue or trigger sets the habit in motion. What happened just before? Who is involved in it? Where does it take place? When does it happen? How were you feeling?

What you’re identifying is called the “habit loop” by author Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit. Identify the loop of a particular habit and you can start changing it.

It may take a while to identify the reward or determine exactly what sets the habit in motion. Briefly pausing and examining what the cue and reward are helps, when you notice a habit kick in. Especially when you write those cues and rewards down over a couple of days.

If you don’t quite know how or where to start, why not review the past couple of months (click here to read a blog I wrote about reviewing your life). Use the outcome as a starting point to look at things you want to change and possible habits that lie at the base of that desired change.

Have a plan

Once you’ve identified not just the habit you want to change, but more importantly the trigger and the reward, you can make a plan.

Awareness of the trigger that sets off the habit, gives you the opportunity to deliberately choose a different response.

Once you know what your reward is, you can consciously find different ways to achieve the same goal.

Knowing why you do what you do gives you the ability to change your habit.

Daring you

Now, I’m daring you to single out that the habit loop that comes with that expectation you no longer want to live up to.

I’m daring you to start figuring out how you will change your habit loop that comes with it.

Because changing the way you respond to that expectation is the first step to start living up to your own!

It’s time for you to step into your own life and stop living someone else’s.

Leave a comment and let me know what expectation you are daring to take on!

You want some help figuring all this out? Then let’s talk! Just grab a date and time that suit you on my calendar by clicking here!

As always….

Go dare greatly!