4 ways to improve good habits and eliminate harmful ones

Habit is a routine or practice performed regularly and is an automatic response to a specific situation.

Good habits can help us realize our full potential, and even if at first the results seem minimal and irrelevant, if you persevere, good habits create a remarkable change that improves the quality of life.

This article presents an effective plan of action to create positive habits, the backbone are the Four laws for changing behavior that derive from the four phases of a habit: input, desire, response and reward.

It is known that external stimuli influence habits, in this book we will explain how instead our emotions, beliefs and thoughts influence behavior and how the fundamental pillars of the latter remain unchanged, although behavior changes according to situations.

The fundamental and immutable principles of human behavior are the basis from which to create good lasting habits.

Improving only 1% daily brings us great results

Very often in life we ​​focus on the goal we want to achieve and we believe that one, great effort or action is required to do this. However, it is necessary not to underestimate the importance of the minimum daily improvements we make, the daily 1% improvement achieved over a long period leads to an incredible and more significant result.

This also applies in the opposite direction, a single and small wrong decision is not remarkable, but numerous wrong decisions, even if they seem insignificant at the moment, produce a huge negative result in the long term. Based on this notion, a minimal change in daily habits can produce extraordinary results.

The problem with this process is that very often the results are not immediately visible until the latent potential threshold is exceeded, one must have the patience to wait and not slip again into bad habits. It is a common belief that in order to achieve success, you have to set yourself goals and focus on them.

In reality, the objectives are excellent to have a direction to follow, but it is the system (the process to achieve them) the best method to obtain progress. To improve, it is not necessary to change the result, but to change the system, it is the commitment to the latter that determines our progress and even our happiness, which will no longer be dependent on the objective but on the process itself.

It can therefore be said that habits are like atoms that are part of a larger system, each of them contributes to its success.

An effective method to change your habits, creating new and lasting ones, is to focus on your identity, on who you want to become and on your belief system, the actions that do not match with them can never be carried out for long periods.

Habits arise through a four-step process:

  • the input , during which the brain receives the information and expects a reward;
  • desire , which drives us to act;
  • the answer , which is the execution of habit;
  • the reward , which is the ultimate goal of habit.

When the four phases of a behavior occur sufficiently, then the automatic action is created with which we solve the problems using the least amount of energy possible: habit.

The Four Laws for Changing Behavior are based on these phases to create positive habits and are: evidence, attractiveness, simplicity and satisfaction.

Create good habits

First law: evidence, make the input obvious.

  • Over time, habits become so automatic that one no longer pays attention to one’s actions, at this point the first step to take to change habits is to become aware of what we are already carrying out. A good exercise for this purpose is the use of a list, a list of all the effective and non-effective habits that we perform every day.
  • Creating a program of implementation of your intentions combined with a date and time is a great way to be constant in new habits, it is also useful to combine them with those that are already performed, in this way you create an obvious input to perform the new action.
  • To make the input that activates a habit even more evident, you can change the environment, over time the input will no longer come from a single object but from the context itself. It is important to combine a new environment with a new habit, it is more difficult for a new behavior to compete in an environment with inputs for contrasting habits.

Second law: attraction, make the habit attractive.

  • The more attractive an opportunity, the more we are driven to act, it is the expectation of a reward and not the achievement of the latter that gives us the motivation. A useful strategy in this sense is the combination of an action that you  want to  do with an action that  must be  done.
  • The human being tends to perform actions approved by his social group, family or prestigious personalities, it is difficult to perform habits that are considered unwanted by such groups. For this purpose it is useful to join a group with which we have something in common and which accepts and considers the habit we want to perform normal.
  • Doing something we love before the desired habit can create a stimulating input and give us the motivation to carry on the new habit.

Third law: Simplicity.

  • Habits are created based on how often we repeat the action and the best way to do this is to make it easy.
  • One of the best ways to make a habit simple is to modify the environment so that the actions are easy to perform, eliminating any friction and energy expenditure.
  • Every day is full of small choices, decisive moments that together create the outcome of the day. Being able to master these small habitual choices is the basis of good habits.
  • An important rule for implementing a new habit is the “two minute rule”. Each new habit should not last longer than two minutes. Once you master this rule and the habit is consolidated by repetition, then you can start optimizing it.
  • Technology is an excellent help to make a good habit simple, in fact automation is an effective strategy for following the right behavior.

Fourth law: satisfaction.

  • We are more likely to repeat behavior if it is immediately satisfactory. Unfortunately, the immediacy of a result is not a common factor in human life, just think of the working environment, the pay (reward) is received only after a month of work. It is vital to use an immediate reward to reinforce good behavior, with time the reward satisfaction will become less important and the habit will run because it is part of your identity.
  • Another method of creating satisfaction is to keep track (automatic or manual) of the repetition of one’s habits. Being able to have a visual proof of your progress creates a sense of satisfaction, but it is necessary to keep track of the right element, and not to break the series of repetitions more than once.

Eliminate bad habits

Reversal of the first law: invisible.

  • The best way to eliminate a bad habit is not self-control, which is a temporary solution, but to make the input that activates the habit invisible, in this way a long-term solution is obtained.

Reversal of the second law: making the habit unpleasant.

  • Habits are closely connected to the associations between elements created by our mind, thanks to which we predict whether it is useful to repeat an action or not. If we change the vision we have of a habit, highlighting the benefits that are obtained in avoiding the bad habit, we can succeed in reprogramming our mind and making the positive habit more attractive.

Reversal of the third law: making the action more difficult.

  • If you make sure that your environment hinders bad habits, you are taking a step towards eliminating them.
  • Another technique for making bad habits difficult is creating a commitment. If you create a commitment in the present, it can make a bad habit more difficult in the future (for example, pay a lesson in advance to avoid going away).

Reversal of the fourth law: making the action unsatisfactory.

  • Making an action less satisfactory makes its repetition more unlikely. A useful technique is to create a contract with a trusted partner with whom the social costs of violating a behavior will be decided. The human being tends to do his best when he is aware that someone else is observing him.

The ABC to keep in mind to create good habits

The best strategy to create and be constant in good habits is to choose the field in which we are strongest, there is no denying that every human being is influenced by his or her genes, one only needs to learn to exploit them in the best way.

The biggest threat in the process of creating a habit is boredom, one must learn to repeat the same action a thousand times, continue to love it and at the same time be aware of the action itself, in order not to fall victim to the errors of repetitiveness.

The fundamental principle for changing one’s habits is not the single 1% improvement, but the set of the thousand habits that make up the system, there is no permanent solution, improvement is an infinite process through small changes.


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