Our Default Self vs Habit Design

People rarely change their behaviour for good. Your brains tend to revert to your old ways of thinking and doing. The old pathways are still there and because they are so familiar to you, you use them when you’re not paying attention.

The habits you most recently acquired are the ones most likely to go first. The enemy of your brand new habit is your past behaviour.

There are a few things you must do if you want your new shiny habit to stick.

The behaviour you’re trying to make into a habit needs to be repeated  often, and/or must be perceives as having a high degree of utility. This means the behaviour needs to give you great pleasure, or help you avoid pain.

Indeed, a behaviour that provides minimal perceived benefit can become a habit just because you repeat it often.

Science has yet to determine the length of time it takes to form new habits. If you read it takes 21 days or 6 months to form a new habit, these are just myths that have been debunked many times already.

Habits are wonderful tools that can help you create a rich life. If you carefully plan which habits you want to establish, you’ll get more success in making your dreams come true.

Combine the formula to creating habits with frequency, perceived benefits, focus, and persistence will most definitely turn you into a master habit maker. The formula that creates habits (good or bad) is a follow:

Cue -> Behaviour -> Reward = Habit

If you think habits are boring, that you hate routines, and you think you are living your life with spontaneity now, think again. You are already living at least 40% your life through a routine. If you didn’t design the habits yourself, chances are other people — your boss, clients, marketers, spouse, children, friends, family, yogi master — have done it for you.

 

Conditioning

Conditioning is a tool that can greatly help you be a better version of yourself. There’s thought conditioning, where you try to have the right thought that’ll take you to do the right actions, and there’s behavioural conditioning, where if you take the right actions, you’ll get the result you want, regardless of what you think.

Thought conditioning is good and it works. It includes all the positive affirmations, positive visualizations, changing your vocabulary, and some meditation techniques. When you can’t use behavioural conditioning to get what you, or be how you want to be, the default should be thought conditioning. Everything starts with a thought.

Using behavioural conditioning to change is even better than thought conditioning because it focuses on creating new habits. It doesn’t really matter what you think of the subject you are trying to change, because when you take the right kind of actions, create the right kind of habits, your thoughts will follow, you’ll start thinking the same way of your new behaviour.

Since the Holidays, I’ve had a hard time getting up early in the morning, even with the help of my alarm. The few late night parties threw me completely out of balance. My mornings are very important for my productivity, my success, my sanity, and my self-esteem. Waking up around 8:00 or even 9:00 makes me feel like a pathetic, lazy worthless potato (sorry little pretty nutritious potato)…

So! I’ve been trying something new. Something completely unusual, even a little bizarre.

I practiced getting up. I first rehearse it in my head about ten times. I visualized every step of the process. It’s impressive how many steps there is just to get out of bed when the alarm gets off.

Then, I pretended to be asleep, set my alarm for 5 minutes in the future, and when it got off, I did exactly what I had visualized and got up. I did that 3 times, felt like an idiot for 15 minutes, but had great results the next morning, even after falling asleep around midnight. Hurray for conditioning!

Would you use conditioning to create a better version of yourself, even if it makes you feel silly?

If This, Then That

Back in 2003, I changed my life over, and learn PHP. I used this skill to build websites, and earn a living until something bad happened; I didn’t get paid for a big project I already had spend countless hours on. I decided it was enough. I used the skill to build my own websites, and be free of people who don’t pay.

I tell you this because many programming languages use the If/Then statement. It got me thinking that this way of conducting ourselves is being applied to real life situations. Except that we’re not aware this conditional statement is driving us.

What if we became conscious, and use the If/Then statement to create new habits?

Habits are created through a formula that goes like this: you get a signal, or cue, that triggers the desired behaviour. This desired behaviour is then rewarded.

Habit = Signal > Behaviour > Reward

The signal is the If in the If/Then statement, and the behaviour and the reward are the Then. Because the signal, the If, is what makes us do the desired behaviour, the Then, it makes sense to focus on creating strong Ifs.

There’s also the possibility to use the behaviour, or the reward, as an If. This is even better because it creates an infinite Loop of desired, rewarded behaviour that signal the next desired behaviour.

It might look like using this technique would make us behave like programs. Whether you like it or not, you’re already acting as a program. During any given day, we are 80% habit driven*, but most of those habits would need a major upgrade. Besides, I’d rather be the one taking decisions concerning the important things in my life.

Do you have a chain, or a Loop of habits that would need an upgrade?

* I don’t remember the source of this statistic, but when I do, I’ll add it as a reference that I’m not throwing numbers out in thin air for the fun of it.

The Kiss of Serenity

Serenity is the antonym of anxiety. It’s a state of peacefulness, where the mind and the body are untroubled. If you’ve ever experienced serenity, you know how good it feels, and I bet you’d like to get in this state much more often.

If we look at what causes anxiety most of the time, we might be able to reverse engineer it, and feel the bliss of serenity instead. When we’re anxious, it’s because we’re out of control, we’re disorganized, we’re not prepared, and we’re not taking action.

The Goal is Serenity

From my experience, I know that when I’m anxious, it’s already too late. There are techniques that can ease the anxiety– breathing, meditating, focus on the task at hand –but the goal is serenity, not to feel less anxious.

To take control of our lives, our projects, or our work, we might need to get more things on auto-pilot. That’s where habits come in handy. Good, strong habits free up you mind to let you make better decisions.

Everybody has habits. If someone says they don’t, they simply don’t realize that they have a routine. Instead of creating the habits they want for a better life, they’re letting themselves be ruled by whatever good or bad habits that would form naturally.

Getting organized is so much easier with habits. When everything is in order, and has a structure, it facilitates our lives. No more searching of your keys. No more buying stuff you already have, but have no clue where it might be hidden. No more stress because you think you’ve lost that super important report you must present in five minutes.

Being prepared for an interview, for an exam, or for a big event frees us to deal with the unexpected with all our grace. It gives us the opportunity to show our real values and character strengths. Our mind is calm, and it can deal with anything anyone throws at it.

Actions can create habits. Actions can make you feel in control. Actions are what separate successes from failures. You already know that the tiniest actions can create a giant snowball. You’ll be hard to stop once you start moving.


Have you lost your keys, your important report, and felt so anxious you started shaking from the inside? And on the contrary, have you done it so gracefully that you felt the kiss of serenity on your forehead?