How Changing One Habit Could Make Your Dreams Come True

You are what you repeated do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.
— Aristotle

Do You have a morning ritual?

I’m not talking about ‘get out of bed, have a shower, put on your clothes, have breakfast etc while in automatic mode’ and then dragging yourself out of the house

That’s more of a routine or maybe even a habit.

I’m talking about a ritual and the difference is that a ritual is something done mindfully.

So, your ritual could look similar - getting out of bed, showering, having breakfast and leaving the house, but instead of just getting out of bed, you might get out of bed and do a minute’s stretches and then you might do affirmations in the shower.

You may already have considered what you’re going to wear, even the night before, and your clothing is making a statement about who you are and how you want to present yourself that day. And when you eat, you do so mindfully so you savour every mouthful.

Highly successful people have morning rituals

Most successful people have a morning ritual and will tell you about it if asked. To them, it will be something they do religiously

  • Oprah Winfrey has a morning ritual which always ends with a nutritious breakfast.

  • Barak Obama always incorporates exercise into his morning, however hectic his schedule.

  • Steve Jobs looked at himself in the bathroom mirror and asked himself ‘if today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’

  • Arianna Huffington starts her day with yoga and meditation

You get the picture - highly successful people have a ritual that is a non-negotiable in their day and that sets their day up for success. And if you set your days up for success, you will be successful.

Making your Bed can even set you up for Success

If you don’t currently make your bed after you get up (and apparently 59% of people don’t), then just making that simple change in your day can set you up for success.

A study showed that 71% of bed makers considered themselves happy whereas 61% of non-bed makers considered themselves unhappy.

So why wouldn’t you want to make your bed now knowing that it will likely make you happier. A happier you is likely to be a more successful you. You choose.

The other benefits include the fact that you start your day with a win - and let’s face it, it’s pretty easy to get that win, your room will look tidier and that will encourage you to ‘be tidy’ in other areas of your life and having one positive habit makes it easier to then incorporate another one into your life.

What is a Habit?

Habits are just automatic behaviours and the way they become automatic is that they have been done over and over and over, so the brain makes a special ‘fast lane highway’ for that action in the future and you don’t even need to think about it.

Habits in themselves are neither good nor bad. They are just a behaviour that has become automatic. But with time, behaviours (habits) that may have served us in the past may not be helpful any longer. The good news is that you can change a habit.

Understanding the ABC of Habits.

To make a change in a habit, it’s helpful to understand the mechanics, or what I call the ABC.

You can stop an unhelpful habit (eg. emotional eating) or you can create a habit of something you want to incorporate into your life (eg. exercise)

  • A - the antecedent or the trigger. What happens before the behaviour. So for example, in emotional eating the trigger may be feeling sad about something.

  • B - the behaviour or the habit. What is it that you do (eat sugary food) or what would you prefer to do (exercise)

  • C - the consequence or the reward for doing the behaviour. So the reward for emotional eating may be a temporary feeling of comfort.

Once you understand the ABC, you can change the behaviour by manipulating the A, the B or the C or a combination.

For example, in emotional eating, you want to change the behaviour so you need to first recognise the trigger and then mindfully do something different when you feel sad. And then reward yourself in a way that you feel loved and comforted for doing the new thing.

So, you might find yourself feeling sad, you notice this, but instead of going to the kitchen, you go outside for a walk or call a friend. And every time you successfully do something different, take note and then reward yourself - so curl up on the sofa in your cuddliest blanket and watch Netflix (if that’s a comforting thing for you).

When introducing a new habit such as exercise, you need to give yourself a trigger - so maybe put your exercise clothes out the night before so they ready when you wake. Then reward yourself for doing the exercise - maybe keep a tally and once you’ve exercised 5 days in a row, you get to go to the movies or out for dinner.

How long do habits take to change?

How long it will take to change a habit depends on what it is. A study at University College, London, found that changing a habit took on average 66 days.

Introducing a simple habit like having a glass of water might just take 21 days. More complex habits may take up to 100 days.

But once you start, you need to make it a daily deliberate practice. If you miss a day, you need to start again.

Watch your Language

There are a few things you can do to make your habit forming easier.

First, make sure you use words that are in alignment with your new habit.

So, if you’re staring an exercise program, use words that are positive around exercise, eg. ‘I adore exercise’, ‘I feel so good when I exercise’, ‘I love exercising at 6am’.

It doesn’t actually matter that you do or don’t love it when you get up at 6 am to exercise but if you say you do, it will be easier.

Equally, if you are trying to eliminate a habit, use words that distance yourself from that habit - ‘I used to eat when I was sad but that isn’t me anymore’ ,‘when I’m sad, I love taking a walk in nature’

Get a Buddy

Changing a habit can be easier if you’ve told someone about it and, even better, if you have someone to keep you accountable.

So, next time you are altering a habit, make a public declaration and ask for an accountability buddy. You’re more likely to succeed that if you just try it alone.

The Power of One

What I love about creating habits for success is that you don’t have to change everything at the same time.

Choose one thing you want to change and change that. Once that thing becomes automatic in 2-3 months of daily practice, consider changing one more thing.

Then before you know it your life might look very different from how it does today and all you’ve done is change one habit at a time.

So, good luck with improving your life, one habit at a time.