Coaches Corner

Replacing Bad Habits with Good Habits

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the habits, systems, and standards we live by.  For most of us, our day is structured into some kind of schedule.  In the world of daily optimization and maximizing our daily potential, a high level of structure is necessary and structure is freedom.  However, even those who can’t tell you what they will be doing every hour of every day live by some kind of structure in their day.  At the very least, most of us get up at a certain time, leave for work at a certain time, work from start of the day to finish, eat lunch at a certain time, drive home, eat dinner, and try to get to bed at a reasonable hour.

It’s what happens between those big time markers that has me thinking.  What are my daily habits?  Do I have daily systems in place to make sure everything is accomplished?  Do I have standards I live by to make sure tasks are completed to a certain level?  Finally, and most importantly, can I improve on any of these to make my day BETTER?

One of my daily habits is reading the Daily Stoic before bed.  It is a book written by Ryan Holiday that takes Stoic Philosophy and breaks it down to daily lessons.  You read the source text and then the Mr. Holiday’s modern day interpretation.  Fittingly, the passage a few nights ago was about driving out bad habits with good habits. 

For starters, we need to identify the “bad habits” of our day.  Let’s assume a bad habit is the bowl of ice cream we eat every night before bed.  How do we change this bad habit?  It becomes so ingrained in our daily routine that we almost do it subconsciously.  The best way is to replace it with a good habit.

STEP 1:  Set a reminder – You cannot set a new habit if you don’t remember to do it.  This may be a reminder on your phone (one of a couple ways those annoying phone notifications can be helpful).  An easy analog system is to put Post-it Note reminders on door frames and other objects around the habit.

In our example, you might put a Post-it on the door frame to your kitchen that reads, “Grab the healthier piece of fruit”  Don’t just write down what you don’t want to do.  Write down the proactive step you want to develop as a habit.

STEP 2:  Make it a routine – As we talked about in a recent episode of “The Stronger Revolution,” consistency is always the key to success.  In this instance, you need a consistent routine that is unbroken.  This is also a trackable step.

Pull out an analog calendar.  Every day you uphold the new habit and avoid the bad habit, draw an “X” on the calendar.  Now, see how long you can go without breaking the chain of “X”s.

STEP 3:  Give yourself a reward – You are making a change to your life and you need to acknowledge that change as a good thing.  So, provide yourself a reward for keeping your new routine.

In our ice cream example, maybe you tell yourself that every time you go five nights with having a healthy snack and avoiding ice cream, you can have the ice cream at night before bed.  Moreover, you could pick a reward that has nothing to do with your bad habit.  For example, maybe you are trying to kick your smoking habit and you want to replace it with working out.  In that instance, your reward might be a small piece of chocolate after every workout as a reminder that you did something really great for your health.

The act of writing down your reminders and keeping track of your progress gives you a sense of accountability.  We all know what habits are good and what habits are bad.  Your choice to change bad habits is the one thing you have complete control over.  Give this system a try and start optimizing your day.