There has been a lot of recent research lately on the subject of habits. Numerous books have been written by some great authors like Charles Durhigg and James Clear extensively demonstrating the potential positive effect on the human condition that habits may hold if they are used to ones advantage.

Habits may be good or often bad and may be either deliberate or occur unwittingly from repetitive actions that we default into. Not enough awareness may be assigned to behaviors that we tend to continue to fall into, despite them going against our goals, values or intentions. We simply resign ourselves to accept that the force of our habit is beyond our control.

Current neuroscience research proves that this is not the case. When it comes to building habits, there is a choice. One can have control over their habits and choose to replace good ones over bad. The opportunity and possibility is there, but without complete understanding and a helpful formula, the chance of success is often minimal.

So where does one begin? The thought of breaking a bad behavioral habit may seem so beyond possible. How can one expect to change overnight and turn over a new leaf after years of being set in ones ways? The answer is that you don’t change overnight! You start by DECIDING to move in the DIRECTION of the desired change. This requires some deep reflection and discernment. You have first be willing to introspectively choose what matters most and forget about the rest for the time being. Maybe it would be quitting a vice. Maybe its eating healthier. Maybe its stopping the procrastination of important work,relationship conflict or financial matters. Maybe its realizing that its time to get in shape. The point is that priorities are unique to individual and each one of us should decide which single objective is most dear to us.

There will be two separate barriers to overcome in this often overwhelming pursuit. The first is the mental inertia one faces when trying to start or change something. The initial resistance is always present and has to be overcome before any momentum can be attained. This is the basic laws of the physics of motion.The need to overcome inertia. We often rely on external motivators such as advertisements and pep talks to push us over this hurdle. However, if it is not sustained by genuine internal values and resolve, then it can often lead to an abrupt quitting point. Overcoming inertia can be achieved by simply STARTING a process. Even if you are scared or intimidated or just plain don’t feel like it. The only solution past it is to START. James Clear wrote of an effective strategy to get started. He calls it the 2 minute rule. He describes how it only takes 2 minutes
to start something easy. Its a lot less intimidating to begin a huge undertaking if you only have to commit to the first 2 minutes. The purpose is to introduce an incremental change. In those first 2 minutes, a lot of anxiety and apprehension can be removed because you get a chance to settle into the environment that you will be undertaking the task. You become mentally disarmed when you realize that it isn’t as painful as you build it up in your head.

Lets put this strategy into place with some examples

  1. Need to start a written project? Sit down in front of your computer at a clean desk space and write only one paragraph
  2. Need to deal with a physical health problem? Call today and arrange an appointment within the next 5 days
  3. Need to open a large pile of mail? Choose only one and pick something innocent
  4. Need to clean up a sink full of dishes? Stand in front of the pile and decide to clean one dish only
  5. Want to go for a walk? Ride a bike? Put on your shoes and decide to go for only 2 minutes
  6. Want to cut out sugar, salt, fried or processed food? Replace only one item ( or teaspoon with either water, a piece of fruit or a vegetable)

The idea is that none of these actions in isolation amounts to a significant change. Its OK because that’s NOT the initial objective. We are trying to break an old pattern and establish a new one. The only purpose is to give yourself a small mental win and initiate an achievable start to the process.

So what comes after the start? Its called “getting the ball rolling.” That means building some momentum needed to keep moving the process forward. When it comes to cultivating habits, this is the part where you establish your rhythm and flow and its the most important element that can sustain your efforts until they become a desired automatic practice. Stay tuned for the next blog when I guide you through this fulfilling habit phase.

What 3 simple tasks that you have been avoiding could you do today for 2 minutes?

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