Changing a habit is a challenge, especially if it is deeply rooted. Moreover, by observing ourselves in the mirror, we are all able to identify a habit that we would like to change. The end of the year comes and we make the resolution to do or not to do things. Very often, we start well then, with the passage of time, we resume our old habits.
The good news is that there are effective methods to change a habit. Sometimes it's not the will we miss, but the strategy. Of course, it takes effort and perseverance but without the appropriate method, it is much more difficult to achieve the goal.
To change a habit, we need cognitive, emotional and voluntary aspects. The decision is a necessary step; but it is not enough. From the analysis of human conduct, we established that the modification of a habit involves six steps that will be presented below.
"Nobody can be a slave to his identity: when a possibility of change, you have to change."
1. Precontemplation, the first step to change a habit
Changing a habit starts with the appearance of clues whispering in your ear. A voice, almost always tenuous, admits that there is an unhealthy or positive habit in our lives. Sometimes other people detect the situation. What is certain is that the idea of eradicating a certain behavior is gradually being felt.
At the same time, a denial of facts is presented. The resistance is sometimes very strong. We look for reasons to maintain the habit or we underestimate the arguments that invite to modify it. We all tend to maintain everything in the same way, and the idea of a big change usually only makes us very enthusiastic at first.
This is the longest step in the process of changing a habit. It lasts for months, years, all of life. It includes the moment in which the individual realizes that he / she actually has a negative habit, that it affects him / her and that it would be appropriate to introduce a certain transformation.
This is also the phase in which we make the decision to change and possibly take the first steps to achieve it. There is no more denial. On the other hand, there may be some lack of motivation or difficulty finding the path to change.
Preparation is the phase in which we begin to make efforts to change. It's time for exploration. The time of failed and inconsistent attempts that are realized without finally consolidating.
At this stage, the person discovers the level of difficulty involved in changing a habit. Awareness that this change is needed persists and the first hurdles to achieve it effectively become identifiable.
During this phase, there are conscious, directed and continuous efforts to achieve change. This is a strategy to achieve the goal. This strategy is often motivated by the advice of others or the information we receive. We can see some successes, but the change is not yet radical.
Often the consolidation fails because we do not lead the previous steps. Some begin the process by imagining success, but it is very difficult and often it is a failure. In any case, at this stage there are perfectly observable and clear advances.
As the name suggests, this phase is the maintenance of the new behavior. We have put aside the old habit and acquired a new one. The mission is now to manage to keep this task so that it persists and that it fits into our natural way of living. There is then a greater security and confidence.
However, for the new behavior to be maintained, the ideal is to acquire new reinforcement habits. For example, if the goal is to quit smoking and have been successful, this new habit can be combined with physical activity. It is also very important to maintain motivation and reward yourself frequently for our successes.
Relapses are a normal part of the change process. The human mind is not linear. It works through ascending and descending curves. However, a relapse does not return the person to the zero level of the process, even when it is very strong. All the progress will make it possible to start at a more sustained pace.
It is advisable to resume the process at the preparation stage. It is also essential not to punish oneself.On the contrary, we must move forward, motivate ourselves and not allow doubt or lack of confidence to take power over our moral state. It is always a good thing to examine the cause of the relapse and identify the risk factors for the future.
Changing a habit is not easy, but it's obvious that when we do, we help increase our feelings of self-esteem, optimism and confidence in our abilities. Of course, we also increase our quality of life and we eliminate the potential factors of suffering for us.