According to Webster, a habit is “a usual way of behaving: something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way.” A better defined explanation I found in the American Journal of Psychology is “a habit, from the standpoint of psychology, is more or less a fixed way of thinking, willing or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience.”
Typically a person doesn’t notice a habitual behavior because while taking part in the habitual task, a person does not need to be mentally engaged.
Therefore these behavioral patterns are imprinted in our neural pathways, making old habits hard to break and new habits just as hard to form.
However, new habits, specifically healthy habits, are possible to form through repetition. As healthy behaviors are repeated consistently, there is an incremental increase in the link between the motive and the action. This increases the automaticity of the behavior. I have heard many people say that habits are formed by completing a task 21 days in a row. After those 21 days, abracadabra, a habit is formed. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Habits take time, mental dedication, persistence and work to maintain. There are three phases of habit formation: honeymoon, fight thru and second nature.
The honeymoon phase is where it starts. Characterized as the “easy phase,” the habit at this stage is something new, refreshing, and possibly inspired by someone or something. Starting something new gives us that renewed feeling; however, at some point this honeymoon phase must come to an end. The fight thru phase is when inspiration starts to fade and reality sets in. You find yourself struggling between the new positive habit and fighting the old habit which creeps back in. In order to move forward and make it to phase three, you have to fight thru this stage. To help get you to the fight thru, try these techniques.
1. Recognize: It is essential to succeed in stage 2 if you recognize the fight. To move past this stage, you need to enter and openly state you’re in the fight thru stage. Remember every fight thru you win will make the next easier, and every one you lose makes the next one easier to lose. Keep your determination. Push forward.
2. Ask yourself: “How will I feel if I do this?” and “How will I feel if I don’t do this?” Feel the positive emotion in winning the fight thru and the negative in losing. Having an emotional connection brings about a relationship, thus a further commitment to the fight thru.
3. Project your life: Imagine how your life will be like in 5 years if you didn’t make these changes. Make sure you are honest with yourself; let yourself feel what life would be like if the changes are not made.
The final stage is phase three, second nature. Entering this phase, you feel like you are getting into the habit or “getting in the groove.” Once you get to the second nature stage, there are still a few disturbances which could potentially send you back to the fight thru.
- Discouragement: Fight against negative results which discourage you and your new habitual thinking. Start to think “I can do it” and “this is working.”
- Disruptions: Be mindful and aware of individual experiences affecting your new pattern, i.e. vacation, illness, weekends and holidays.
- Success Seduction: Remember to not focus solely on positive results because this could decelerate progress. Gaining great results begins with a great plan and process.
Stages can indeed fluctuate; an experience may send you back to stage two or winning a few fight thru’s may move you to stage three. just remember that great habits are formed daily. Positive habits are not easy and they require time and hard work. Being great requires sacrifice, which may mean doing things that others won’t do or can’t. Positive habits require consistent commitment. Remember Bob’s saying:
“Weight follows behavior, it just takes time.”
Make the commitment to yourself, be dedicated to make it past the fight thru, even though you may go back to the fight many times, each and every time getting stronger and reaching new levels of success.