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How To Take Charge Of Your Unruly Habits

Happiness, Stress

How To Take Charge Of Your Unruly Habits


take charge of your unruly habits

You made resolutions and they are now lying somewhere in your stack of much more important ‘To-dos’. This time you made them much better – they were small, measurable, articulate and time bound, but they still found its place in trash. Why?

Psychology has its answer. And our team too.

Each Monday, here on Workout Trends is dedicated to inspiring ourselves and others to do more and better. Last time our inspiration came from Lizzie Velasquez and the strength of her character. Looking no further than our team this time, here is a simple write-up on the motivation mantras we follow without even realizing for achieving our goals.

I’ll begin with my fellow colleague and great friend, Siddharth’s Toffee-Wrapper theory.

Toffee-Wrapper theory

In his own words, Siddharth describes it as, “Challenge does not lie in eating a toffee while attending a lecture. The challenge lies in unwrapping it.”

Now, he never imagined it could translate to motivation and breaking habits, but it did.

I strongly believe, that one does not need motivation for something as simple as running. All one needs to do is apply the toffee-wrapper theory. When you make your ‘To-Do’ list, don’t write ‘Run 3 miles’ against the check box. Simply write, ‘Get into running shoes’. Then, watch the difference it can make to your running schedule.

When you read ‘Run 3 miles’ you might picture yourself as sweating, panting or even getting late for office. So, before even trying it out, your mind makes you feel tired and gives up. Because biologically, that’s how our brains are wired. No matter how adventurous you are, your mind’s first instinct is to continue doing what its doing. It craves comfort.

‘We are creatures of habit’, you must have heard that sometime. And, I can prove that by the simplest example of a newspaper.

Suppose you read NY Times each day, and just for one day, the paper gets swapped by the neighbors’ who subscribe to a different tabloid. Do you even feel like reading the newspaper that day? How does your day proceed? For me, the word is ‘confused.’

You see that’s the thing about the goals too.

When you make a goal, your mind’s first instinct is, ‘I’ll need to change my schedule drastically.’ And that’s the reason it becomes so difficult to stick to your resolutions and to-do lists. You fear stepping out of your comfort zone. Therefore, next time you set yourself up for a goal, trick your mind into believing, I’m only tying shoes.

Its quite plausible, that for 2-3 days, you’d just wear them and sit thinking for five minutes before untying them and returning to working (read: wasting time dedicated for running). But it wouldn’t be any longer than that when you shun your resisting thoughts, turn the door knob and start running.

And here I bring in the theory of “Addiction to Results” by Nitish, our fitness freak. The theory states a simple fact that, “Results get you addicted.”

Addiction to results theory

I think his theory is quite understandable. Once you start running, notice the happiness of accomplishment you feel exuding from every step. And that’s actually the end of your struggle. After you have ran a few miles, you return home happy and glowing, and you’ll be addicted. This addiction of results, of accomplishment, my friend, is the most ultimate kind of high.

Another observation regarding habits is that we get into bad habits easily, almost unknowingly, and then it becomes difficult to give them up. There are theories like ‘3 weeks to a new me’ which promise you to get rid of any bad habit in a matter of 21 days. It does work at times, but, in a matter of 3-4 months the bad habit relapses. So, does that call for another 3 week abstinence?

No! I suggest making use of my Alternative habit theory.

Alternative Habit theory

Don’t tell your mind to give up smoking altogether citing health or any such reasons. Give it something to do. The logic is when you stop yourself from smoking, for a few minutes you ‘wonder‘ what else to do. You’d look around for a few moments and eventually, light one up and regret. Do you know its not worry or stress that persuades you to smoke? You smoke, because you never thought of doing anything else in that situation.

Save yourself from the guilt by giving your mind something else to do, like a gum or may be a sudoku to solve, something that will focus the thoughts on anything other than tobacco. It ultimately depends on your will power, but this is certainly gonna help you in your endeavor.

I used running and smoking as examples, but you understand that all these theories can be applied to almost anything, right?!

And lastly, start living in present. Your goal should be today, each day. Survive this day. And tomorrow shall take care of itself.

Want to hack your habits?

Checkout HabitNest to help you hack your habits so it’s fun and easy to wake up at 5 a.m., hit the gym, cut those 10 pounds, read that book, and live mindfully. Learn how you can start waking up earlier and build the perfect morning routine to win every day.

Hope you enjoyed reading it so far? Have a great day! 🙂

Further Readings

[1] Wood, Wendy; Neal, David T. A new look at habits and the habit-goal interface. Psychological Review, Vol 114(4), Oct 2007, 843-863. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.114.4.843

[2] Gardner B, Lally P, Wardle J. Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice. Br J Gen Pract. 2012 Dec;62(605):664-6. doi: 10.3399/bjgp12X659466. PubMed PMID: 23211256; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3505409.

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