Stop Bad Habits, Start Good Habits

For some of us small business owners, our motivation may still be going strong at this point in the year. For others of us, we may have already run out of energy or been derailed by any number of distractions. Either way, in order to reach your goal, don’t stop. If you’re graciously chugging along: keep going. If you’re a crumpled mess on the floor: get back up and dust yourself off.

The journey to our goal is not often a straight line. It usually more closely resembles peaks and valleys, with plateaus throughout. When you really think about achieving a goal though, it’s so much more about the journey than the destination.

I want to use weight loss as an example. There are a million different diets and fitness regimes that can get you to your goal weight. Some may get you to your goal faster than others, but this also means the journey was shorter. You may not have learned a lot along the way.

Let’s say you were to use a diet plan that provided you three meals a day. You fastidiously ate them and only them, and in turn, reached your goal weight. At your goal weight, you no longer are provided any meals. You go back to eating the same way you did before you started the diet. And it’s not too long before you’re back over your goal weight. Why is that?

You didn’t learn to make the changes to sustain your desired outcome. You followed a plan, but you didn’t really learn to how to eat more healthfully. You didn’t test and experiment with what would sustain you both physically and mentally. You didn’t change your habits for the long-term.

Ultimately, it’s changing your habits, the things that you do everyday, that are going to get you to your goal. When you do things consistently that move you closer to your goal, you’ll eventually begin to see yourself trending overall in the right direction, even if your journey was more of a rollercoaster than a straight line to the finish.

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to break a bad habit? How about how hard it is to implement a new, good habit? It is these habits that bring us both closer to and further from our goals. So as we navigate this year and this journey to reaching our goals, what we have to do is ensure our habits support us instead of steer us off course.

Stop vs. Start Behavior

When you’re thinking of being disciplined yourself, remember that will keep you away from those less than ideal habits, but you have to implement good habits with a whole different perspective.

It’s funny because this realization came from a parenting book, 1-2-3 Magic by Phelan, T. W. (2014)., but as a mom and entrepreneur (or mompreneur) much of my life overlaps. When it comes to habits and making or breaking them, sometimes the little voices in our heads do sound like petulant children (“I don’t wanna.”) or other mothers (“You know better than that.”)!

See, when you want a child to stop doing something (grabbing a toy out of a sibling’s hand, jumping on the couch, the “bad” things) you use the magic discipline technique. Basically, you get two warnings, and on the third time there is a consequence. Unless you’re doing something dangerous, then you don’t get a warning, you just get a consequence.

When you want to get a child to start doing something (putting their shoes on, picking up their toys, the “good” things) you don’t use discipline. It’s not an effective way to get anyone to start doing something. You have to approach the subject differently, using motivation techniques.

Set some parameters.

You don’t have to go cold turkey or completely give things up. Like most things, it’s all about moderation. If you have a bad habit you know you should be giving up, trying doing less of it. You’ll want to decide how much or how often less means for you first in order to be sure you’re working toward your goal and away from your bad habit.

Distract yourself, positively.

Every time you start to act on a bad behavior, try substituting it with a more positive one. Ask yourself before acting, “Will doing this push me closer to my goal?” If the answer is no, try doing something else that will. If nothing else, try and take a pause and see if you can let the feeling of wanting to do the bad habit pass. Get outside and take a walk, meditate, call a friend or accountability partner.

Change your routine.

Sometimes we hang on to bad habits because they are so ingrained into our routines that we do them without even noticing. We often stack our habits together. If you find yourself performing a bad habit as part of your usual daily routine, try doing things in a different order for a bit. Make a small change just to trick your brain into thinking a bit more instead of running on auto-pilot. Your heightened awareness will help you skip the bad habit before you’ve gone and done it again without thinking.

Pick one habit to focus on at a time.

Sometimes we feel completely ready to turnover a new leaf and become a new person overnight. Like the aforementioned diet, it’s not usually a sustainable path. Choose just one habit, that if done consistently, will make a difference in reaching your goal, and do it daily for one month. At the end of the month, rate yourself on how well you’re doing. If you truly feel like you’ve got it under control as part of your new regime, then go ahead and try adding another in for the next month.

Write it down.

It sounds simple and a bit silly, but if you only decide your new habit in your head, it’s too easy to become another fleeting thought. You may make a little progress when your motivational energy is high, but you’ll notice it’s a quick slip to end up back where you started. Write down your goal. It is said that you are XX times more likely to achieve your goal is you right it down. Remember, your habit is what’s actually going to be the difference in reaching your goal. Write it down and make it happen.

Schedule it.

Writing it down is great, but again it will only take you so far. You need to ask yourself when are you actually going to get it done? What action steps do you need to take? You’re busy, and it’s too easy to let the newest habits fall by the wayside when you’re short on time. Put it in your calendar and as appointment with yourself. If it’s something that you have to do each day, pick a block of time (15 minutes even) and put it in your calendar. Is it a habit you’ll do as part of your morning routine? Something you’ll do before bed? Maybe you can do it during lunch or at the beginning or ending of every work day? Whenever you decide you’ll do it, put it in your calendar and don’t break that date.

If you use a digital calendar, go a step further and set reminders for yourself. If you’re a paper person, use a printable habit tracker to chart your progress. If it doesn’t end up on the schedule, it doesn’t get done.

Reward yourself.

If you need a little extra push or motivation, it’s perfectly fine to reward yourself a little bit. Making it more fun or making a game out of it can be just the thing you need to successfully add in a new habit. It can be something simple like a fun sticker for your habit tracker or a long, hot bath at the end of the day. Alternatively, once you’ve gotten through the month and established your new routine, you can reward yourself with a new book or perhaps upgrade a piece of business equipment.

What habits are you going to be adding or breaking this year? What are your tips for making it happen?


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