All of us have the best intentions for our lives whether it’s to exercise, eat healthier, or spend more time expanding our skills and knowledge for our given profession. But as you may already know, intentions are not enough to make the needed changes and create success in your life. The problem really lies in the patterns or habits that all of us carry with us. We are programmed to repeat our habits, good or bad, on a subconscious level. If you have good habits, they’ll serve as indispensable forces to help you become successful. Bad habits, on the other hand, can be incredibly destructive to your personal and professional goals. If you’re all too familiar with this situation, here are four steps to break the patterns that are undermining your success and happiness.
Step 1: Become Conscious About Your Problem.
You’ve probably heard this before, but the first step to breaking your patterns is to acknowledge that you have a problem. If you have no idea what’s getting in your way, take some time to really think about your past behaviors. How have they hindered you from creating success in your life? What exactly are you doing to sabotage your success?
Once you have an idea of your negative patterns, get emotional about how it’s hurting you. Ask yourself: what will your life look like five years from now if you continue on the same path? What will it cost you? Try to look into the root of the problem to get a better understanding of why you’re repeating negative habits. If you feel like it may be a serious problem, it may be worthwhile to get coaching or therapy to address it.
Step 2: Figure Out Why You Want What You Want.
Too often, people get stuck on needing to change and never focus on the benefits of the change. After you figure out the patterns that are hindering you from your goals, you need to go back to your goals. Why is it that you want whatever you want? If there is no motivation for you to reach your goals, you’ll never be able to overcome your patterns.
Come up with a list of reasons for wanting success in an area of your life. Focus on reasons that make an emotional impact. Don’t create a list of logical reasons why you “should” reach your goals. Change often comes from emotional leverage rather than thinking yourself into change. It will be incredibly helpful to visualize yourself having the success you’ve always wanted.
Step 3: Come Up with a Plan
Patterns are incredibly difficult to break. That’s why you need a plan to make the necessary changes. Think about what the negative pattern does for you and how you can replace it with another behavior. For example, if smoking helps you relieve stress, find an alternative behavior that can help you meet the same need, such as exercise or meditation.
You want to cover as many bases as possible. Come up with ways to replace your old patterns, find out what triggers you to repeat your bad patterns, and come up with strategies to deal with emotional overwhelm of the negative patterns (deep breathing, meditation, positive visualization, etc.). You also need to be proactive about your goals. Break down your goals into manageable steps and review them on a regular basis. Keep reminding yourself why you want to make the necessary changes.
Step 4: Start Small and Build Over Time
You may become motivated to change and try to pump yourself up into “running five miles” or “working twelve hours,” but long term changes rarely occur overnight. Instead, you want to start small and work your way up. If exercising for one hour a day seems like too much for you, start with ten minutes. Slowly work your way up by one minute every day and you’ll eventually hit that hour mark within a couple of months.
Keep in mind that you will fail many times. Don’t punish yourself for failing. Acknowledge that you failed and learn from your mistakes. Punishing your failures will only train your mind to avoid putting into an effort. The goal here is to establish new patterns slowly until it becomes permanent. It will help to celebrate your successes and acknowledge the progress that you’ve made in eliminating your bad habits and creating positive ones.