I’ve been thinking about how people get addicted to their habits. Some addictions are tough to break because of physical dependency. But most are more benign, and become the habits that run 95% of your day.
What’s interesting is that we may keep these habits, even when they don’t serve us anymore.
Here’s an example: Suppose you’ve been working for the last ten years in a predictable 8:00-to-5:00 office job. Because of that, you’ve structured your meals, evenings and weekends around this, and have grown comfortable with the routine.
But now your job changes, and you have to work regularly with people on the other side of the globe. Your old habits get in the way, because those co-workers aren’t in the office on the schedule you’d prefer.
Recognize that you’re in a situation which is driven largely by habit, and habits can be changed.
Here are the steps that you can go through:
- Recognize that you’re in a state of discomfort. That’s OK, and natural until you’ve changed your habit.
- Look at the new situation in light of your goals. If this is helping you to go in a direction you’d like, learn new skills, or accomplish things, it will help you build up your motivation to get past the rocky patch.
- Explore which habits will be impacted. This could be in many ways – where, how, when, or with whom you do your work. Look at what this does to your leisure and family life. Think through what this does to your energy levels during the course of the week.
- Create several alternative ways to change. In this example, you could change your workday to start at midnight. Or you could work different hours on different days. Or you could consider moving to a different country. There’s usually more than one way to solve a problem.
- Design a new approach, and commit to it for a week. After a week, only change your approach if things appear to be horribly wrong. Because it takes about a month for new habits to develop and start becoming comfortable, you don’t want to be constantly switching around. But be open to tweaking things and incorporating new ideas as they come up.
Sometimes you’ll experience a sense of grief at the loss of your old habits. You might not get to hang out with the same people as you used to, or you might have to change some routines that have become very comfortable over the years. It’s OK to grieve, but recognize that this is temporary and natural, and will diminish as you become comfortable with your new habits.
by Carl Dierschow