What Do You Get Out Of A Bad Habit?

June 9, 2013

In my last post I explained how you have to start observing your habits to find your reminder  – the thought or feeling or activity that precedes your habit.  The reminder is the first step in the habit loop (more the loop this week) and in order to see it you gotta slow down, be mindful. As you start to observe your habits and see how they get you into trouble, you no doubt have had the thought, “Why do I do this???” Or rather, “Why in the hell can’t I stop doing this??” So many little habits you do don’t really support getting you to your goals, yet you struggle to change them.  It is maddening, huh? Logically some habits seem like obvious things to drop, stop or get over….yet they persist.  Despite knowing they don’t support your goals, you do it far too often – and feel terrible about yourself because of it, I know I do. Why would you do such a thing? You get a payoff. You don’t do anything that you don’t get something out of, plain and simple. We all do this, it’s human, but it’s not helpful to getting your WANT. So look at a habit such as drinking wine after work, grabbing a muffin at Starbucks or ordering a sandwich when you know you should have a big salad and you’ve sworn off gluten. What are you getting out of it? You may clearly see the flipside: the cost. You know wine every night doesn’t help you lose weight and you know that muffins are not the proten packed fat loss breakfast you should be eating. That’s the cost, but what’s the pay off? You need to get clear on this – we don’t do anything without some sort of payoff and you’ll need to give this up if you want to get your WANT. I know, tough to admit, but do it.  Being honest with yourself doesn’t make you a bad person, just a human person. What is the thing you don’t want to give up in order to get a better, healthier body? It is often freedom, time, security, or energy – as in it’s easier to just sleep in than get up and workout. It feels restrictive to avoid gluten or watch your carbs. I takes too much time to get in shape…… Here is where you may be feeling you neck muscles tightening up as you start to feel your resistance to answering these tough questions.  Your brain likes things to stay easy, to stay the same and it will start to say stuff like, “I eat good enough and I don’t need this psycho-babble about payoffs and inspiration.” Here’s the reality check – whatever you are doing – no matter how good you think your diet is – it’s giving you the body you have now. If you’re not happy with that status quo… see where I’m going here. You may already be trying very hard, but if your body isn’t changing then there’s work to be done…and it’s probably not at the gym.  Exercise is important, but at least 80% of your results are determined by diet so chances are, you’ve got more work to do in the kitchen than in the gym. So as you start to decide where you’ll focus your efforts to get your WANT, keep in mind that your diet is going to change. This is a good time to notice if you’re complaining or taking a victim mindset.  If you’re thinking things like, “It’s so hard, I have a job and a family and I can’t do this.” “Who has time?” and the classic and my personal favorite, “It’s not fair. Why do I have to work so hard when so and so doesn’t?” If you catch yourself thinking anything along those lines, go back to the payoff. What are you getting out of not trying to do it different, of not taking on more with your nutrition plan – and what is the cost of continuing to do what you’re doing now? Stings a bit huh? I certainly thought so. You’re not alone, this is the human condition. It’s easier to complain and feel we’re at the mercy of our lives than take responsibility and give some really comfy stuff up.  You do it, your girlfriends do it…I do it. Get clear on the payoff of your habits – especially those that you’re resistant to giving up. To really change you have to give these things up IN SPITE of the pay off.  Knowing the cost isn’t usually enough – you know darn well booze is no way to a smaller booty and that muffins add to the muffin top, you know a lot actually – we all do. Yet many of us struggle to bridge the gap between knowing better and doing better. You’re taking a huge step towards actually making change by observing your habits, looking for the habit reminders and getting clear on what you’re really giving up to have your WANT. Take the time to find the payoffs, you’ll have much more power in the face of change by doing so cuz let’s face it, change isn’t effortless. Next post: the habit loop. Take the reminder observation one step further and see what your habit is seeking – the reward. This one is often the hardest part to suss out, don’t worry though I’ll walk you through it.

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