5 ways to improve yourself by changing small habits

To make a change, you often have to resort to tricks to overcome resistance. The bigger the change we want to implement, the higher the resistance we will encounter.

Let’s think of a different thing: according to the method of exponential geometric change, changing a 1% results in a butterfly effect that propagates the change with a geometric acceleration. It is like inserting a virus into the system, which is slowly capable of conquering the whole organism.

Remember that changing is an individual choice. In the process of change, it is not logical arguments that play the main role, but emotions. When you think about the behaviors you want to adopt or discourage, first of all ask yourself about the emotions associated with these behaviors, and try to get in touch with them.

Definition of the goal and how to reach it

Without a clear goal, even if you work very hard you will turn around in circles. Without will and effort, the goal will remain a dream.
First of all you must know your “values”, become aware of what it is worth living for you. To focus on them, it is helpful to ask yourself these three questions:

  • how would you like to be remembered at your funeral?
  • what would you do if you were 356 days old?
  • who would you call if you could make one phone call and were dying?

The second tip is to think like Vilfredo Pareto, a great economist and sociologist, known for the “80/20 law” which takes his name. It is an empirical law of a statistical nature, applicable to many aspects of life. Do this exercise, ask yourself: if you couldn’t work for more than 2 hours a day, what would you do? Once the program has been defined, correct it: the hours have only become 2 per week.

Acquiring new habits also means learning to focus one’s effectiveness on 20% of the efforts that allow us to get closer to achieving the goal. Once the strategic actions to reach the goal have been identified, the next step is to automate them, that is to make them become an integral part of our life, in order to minimize the effort that is needed to make them.

Choose a positive habit, that is, start with a habit to take, not one to abandon. It must be something tangible, that can be observed while you put it into action. Concreteness, especially at the beginning, is very important because it allows you to monitor progress.

If possible, choose something you can do every day of the week, including weekends, for example yoga, meditation, gym, running, keeping a journal. It is important that you identify what is your best time of day to start this new habit.

And above all, choose something small: a new habit, to last over time and not be abandoned quickly, must not upset your life, it must be practicable.

Establish the correct mental attitude

The Mindset  (mental attitude) that puts you at the center of your life and your decisions is fundamental.

Research from Yale University shows that the right mental attitude can affect even the length of life. The results of the research, which lasted 23 years on a sample of 660 people, showed that those who had a positive idea about the passage of time (and therefore aging) lived an average of 7.5 years more.
When we think of change we imagine a kind of Copernican revolution in our life, instead the attitude we need is that of the 1% factor: the more important is the change that we try to implement in our life (and in its balance), the greater the opposite and opposite force (that of our consolidated balance) that will push us to the starting point.

We think we want to improve English: we can set ourselves the goal of learning a new word a day. Only one, but learned for real: although it seems little, that 1% is fundamental and must be taken care of and consolidated, for example by attaching a post-it with the word of the day to the door, associating it with a photo that favors visual memory, writing in a notebook dedicated to English five sentences a day using that specific word.

Using 1% of our time to improve in something means more or less dedicating 14 minutes to that something: it is not so little, the essential is to apply. Sir Dave Brailsford has coached an English cycling team leading him to win three Tour de France in four years after a past of mediocrity.

To make this “revolution”, Brailsford improved by 1% every single aspect of the athlete’s performance: endurance, speed, management of race emotion, body weight, bicycle ergonomics, nutrition , the quality of sleep and the effectiveness of the ointments used on the team members.

The circle of habit: how to create it and how to stop it

The 1% technique can be applied not only to the adoption of new habits, but also to those we want to brake.

The phases that activate the circle of habit are three:

1. The signal: it is the fuse that triggers the actual behavior represented by the action. It is well represented by the green light of the traffic light, which you have learned to recognize automatically as input that makes your foot press on the accelerator to start again.
2. Action : it is the act itself. In the example of the traffic light it is the action of accelerating and crossing the intersection.
3. The benefit : it closes the circle of habits and it is gratification, the reward: I resume the journey, I get closer to my goal.

It is important to train yourself to recognize the signals that activate behaviors and to identify the benefits that will support them. By working on these three components you can give a more conscious direction to most of your “automations”.

Gratification is essential for all habits, even for negative ones where it is often illusory, as in the case of smokers who by lighting a cigarette have the perception of relieving stress.

A behavior becomes habit if it is repeated and internalized. To do this, it must be easy to activate: for example, if you decide to read more you have to keep books on the bedside table and maybe close the TV in a piece of furniture. Second, it must be within your reach. Is it realistic to assume that from tomorrow you can devote an hour a day to reading if you’ve never read a book in your life? In addition, it must be engaging, that is, it must be part of your real interests.

Habits that are difficult to eradicate are usually surrounded by hot signals, that is, that allow you to take action immediately. The arrival of a message on the mobile phone is a warm signal, because just slide your finger on the keyboard to read it. Keeping your cell phone on the table while you are having dinner is risky, instead you can weaken the signal by leaving it in your jacket pocket.

You have to start from small things, small habits, small changes. It is useless to propose revolutions that are destined to function in the first two days, but then are not sustainable. Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War, claims that the only battles worth fighting are those where the probability of winning is very high.

For the maintenance of habit it is essential to feel comfortable with what has been introduced, and gradually increase. When you realize that you have pushed too hard, you can even go back, returning to the level where the effort required did not cost excessive effort.

Feedback and measurement of results

According to writer and marketing expert Seth Godin, the best way to change long-term behavior is to get short-term feedback.

In other words, we need to be able to measure our progress as we make it, without having to wait for a sensational result in many months.
One of the most comfortable techniques for keeping track of what we do is that of the calendar and the chain: every time you do the thing you have promised to do, put a cross on the calendar.

The optimal situation is not to skip even one day: your motto must be “zero days zero”. Better to train for 10 minutes, if you don’t have time, than to give up completely. Better to spend 5 minutes reading, than to give up. If you happen to jump, it’s important to have an emergency plan, a “if I jump, then I do” gimmick. For example, if you don’t eat vegetables for lunch like you planned to do, then tonight you’ll have to have dinner with something very healthy.

Close the day on a high note to be ready to start a new one

Creating a  shutdown routine  , that is, a series of actions to be made routine at the end of the day, will allow our brain and our body to function better. The usual recommendation is to proceed in small steps and constantly check what is happening.

Entering the final part of the day with small rites, if not “celebrations”, is simple and pleasant. You can prepare a herbal tea and sip it in your favorite armchair after stripping, you can sit next to the bed of your sleeping son for a few minutes, you can take a warm bath after a short walk.

Everyone has his perfect ritual, to discover and build, but the suggestion that comes from research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology is not to be overlooked: according to a group of researchers, the habit of writing, just before going to sleep, the list of things that must be done the next day allows you to fall asleep faster. This routine, in fact, allows our brain to discharge itself, to free itself from the effort of having to keep the information “On”.

Concerns about the tasks to be carried out the following day also diminish, and this naturally combines relaxation and therefore sleep. The researchers argue that the experiment subjects who made detailed lists fell asleep faster than those who made a simple list.

Lascia un commento