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Changing Habits in 7 easy steps


An unfortunate thing about this world is that the good habits are much easier to give up than the bad ones.  –  W. Somerset Maugham

Habits, as Agatha Christie once said, are curious things. People themselves don’t  know they have them! So what is a habit? It is something that we have been doing for so long that we fail to notice it at all – its as though we are in autopilot mode and the habits are now what are leading our lives.

Some of these may be good habits, usually ingrained in the discipline of childhood- such as brushing our teeth in the mornings, keeping our commitments , washing our hands when we come in from the outdoors. We don’t usually wake up and say, what if I did not brush my teeth today. The habit will eventually force you into getting them cleaned sooner or later. Good habits protect us and make us successful.

Bad habits , on the other hand, are a lot more fun and generally originate from a pleasurable activity – such as eating, drinking, smoking, watching TV, or impulsive shopping. Somewhere along the way, we decided that it was so much fun that we would do more of it and as often as we can! And thats where the trouble with habits starts- we now don’t know how to stop it , because they are now on autopilot and could be sabotaging our lives and our health.

The Good news is that we can all learn how to change habits. The trick is to keep it simple and consistent. Here are some tips.

1. Write down the goal before you change the habit

The way I like to begin is to identify a goal , and then list out everything I do that is interfering with the realization of that goal. Instead of a “to do”list , I make a  “to not do”  list.

For example, if I need to lose weight , I make a list of what I am currently eating that could be contributing, or my excuses  (or reasons) for why I cannot exercise more. By identifying the self sabotaging behaviours , I now have a list of mini stepping stones, which if eliminated , could get me closer to my goal.

I also write down what my motivation is for changing that habit, and how I might feel if that habit changes.

2.  Identify the behaviour that triggers the habit

As I mentioned we are sometimes not even aware of our own habits (good or bad). First of all, it is important to be aware of them and then to see what situation or circumstance or reason there could be that prompts that behaviour.

For example, I know that when I go grocery shopping without having eaten, on the way home from work, I tend to buy a lot of fast foods that contribute to my bad habits of bingeing when I am bored or upset.

Having identified hungry shopping as my trigger, I make it a rule to only ever go shopping after I have eaten, and never do it en the way home from work. I also shop only to a planned list.

3.  Replace the habit with a  positive one that makes you feel good

Admittedly it is harder to change a bad habit that is so much fun to indulge in. So reward yourself with something that will contribute to a good habit. Such as  substituting the bag of chips with something else thats fun to eat such as sunflower seeds.

Or overcome the reluctance to work out, with taking dancing lessons.

4.  Start changing the habit with baby steps

I cannot stress enough the importance of starting small. One habit at a time, with half way goals. This is the main reason so many people give up on their Resolutions every year – they are just too darned big and daunting to achieve. So instead of walking for a half hour everyday, start with just 5 minutes a day. Once that becomes a habit, increas it to 10 minutes.

Do not attempt multiple goals unless you are an overachiever by nature, but be warned, therein lies imminent downfall. You will lose focus and not succeed at achievinga ny. Take one at a time – if required plan one habit change a month.

5.  Note down the obstacles that might prevent the changing of that habit

Once you are aware of the habit you might want to change, this is a relatively easy thing to do. Get the help of someone you trust to brainstorm this part of your strategy.

Knowing where the speed bumps are will help you eliminate or circumvent them.For example if you like to smoke when certain friends come by who are smokers, either ask them not to smoke around you, reduce their visits or change your friends!

6.  Form a support structure to help you change that habit.

Get your family, friends, colleagues at work to support you or join a forum. These4 are an amzing source of support as well as of getting ideas on temptations that others in your situation face and how they overcame them. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

7.  Plan a celebration everytime you successfully change a habit.

It is an important accomplishment, so do not take it for granted. Throw a stopped smoking party to celebrate at a non smoking section of a restaurant. Make it something, big, worthwhile and memorable. Most of all make it public- that in itself will be a sufficient deterrant to prevent a relapse into your old ways.

While there is no scientific evidence that it takes 21 days to change a habit, it is perfectly true that a new habit practiced consistently over a period of days whether 30 or 60, will eventually lead to the successful formation of new positive habits that will bring you closer to your goals.

And if you try and fail once, do not let it stop you from starting over and succeeding! Reflect on what went wrong and change your strategy or your support system. Here’s to your Success!

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Categories : Productivity


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