I recently read James Clear’s book “the power of habit, which talks about how to transform bad habits into good habits as well as how to establish completely new habits. While reading it, I had to think back to my years at university.
There was this American guy, that came into the classroom and you could immediately tell that he had something going on.
He was a great storyteller and had already seen a lot in life. But that’s not what I want to talk about here. What I want to talk about instead are habits.
And the habit that this guy was talking about simply blew my mind. I still have to laugh about it every time I think about it. He told us that he’s not the morning type of person and is always struggling to get up early. So here’s the brilliant thing he does to get up early:
He puts his alarm in his shower. So every time his alarm goes off in the morning he has to trot to the shower and turn it off. And while he’s already at it he simply turns on the shower and starts taking a shower. Boom! Ready to go…
It’s a brilliant example of how you can use an already existing habit (switching off the alarm) to form a new habit (really getting up early). So I wanted to try this technique for myself. I have a lot to improve and a lot of bad habits.
Going for a run
I started off by trying to establish the habit of going for a run at least two or three times a week. That’s definitely the thing that I struggled with most during the last years. Even though I started at least five times, I was never really able to make it a habit.
But this time it seems different. It’s been a few months now that I was constantly able to go for a run at least two times a week. Sometimes even more. Here’s what I did:
I used the habit of taking a shower and combined it with going for a run. Now every time I think about taking a shower (which is for most people more than 3 times a week) I immediately think about going for a run and in almost all cases I go for a run.
Another great side effect that is pushing me to go for a run is the fact that when I take a shower without having been out for a run, I feel guilty of wasting water, because I don’t feel like I need it as much as after a run.
Not working out is another weakness that is chasing me since quite a while now. I guess the last time I regularly worked out was in 2009. So I had to find a solution how I could build up the habit of working out again.
Most people start off by going to the gym and signing a one year contract. This never really works out (didn’t work out for me either). So here’s what I did instead:
I was looking for a bad habit of mine and how I could combine it with working out (good habit). It didn’t take too long to find a pretty bad habit of mine that would go along with working out.
One of my worst habits is sitting in front of my computer for days and days (I guess we all do this). As a consequence my back and my neck start hurting terribly after a while.
Now each time I feel like my neck and my back are starting to hurt again I simply take a break and make a set of pushups instead.
I know a bunch of pushups is no big deal, but ever since I started doing this I make at least 3 sets of pushups a day.
The secret is to start off with something easy so we feel small bits of accomplishments and then constantly increase the number of repetitions.
Hence, I started off with a very low amount of pushups (12) to get me back in shape. After I felt more comfortable I increased the number by one on a daily basis. I am now doing about 30.
The best part about it: it also seems to help my back and my neck problems. Who knows, maybe this will lead to a gym membership in some point in time.
Eating healthy was never a big problem for me. I was always more a "sugar bomb" drink kind of guy.
I was drinking way too much Coke/Red Bull and this other crap that has way too much sugar in it. It’s definitely one of my worst habits.
I did a few things to exploit this bad habit and to replace it with a good habit. First of all I don’t have any of these things in my fridge anymore.
Instead, I have a big pack of green tea at home. If I'm now craving sugar bombs I would have to go to the next store (which I don’t because I’m too lazy).
Now every time I think about a sugar booster I immediately think about green tea, because it’s the only thing I have and I am usually too lazy to go out.
I know that green tea isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But if you sweeten it with some honey you can get a pretty nice taste (and it’s healthy too!).
This helped me to tremendously reduce my liquid sugar intake (bad habit) and I replaced it with the consumption of green tea (good habit) instead.
I would say that I now drink about 1 – 1.5 liters of green tea a day. You can never drink too much tea is what they say.
So what’s the key takeaway of these stories?
I guess the most important thing to take into consideration when we want to change a bad habit or want to bring a new habit into our lives (and improve ourselves and our health) is to piggyback on already existing habits.
These can be good or bad habits. It simply needs to be something that we are already doing anyways. Trying to establish new habits without any proper foundation doesn't seem to work for most people.