How to Get into the Habit of Doing the Hard Things
Is your daily routine unproductive? It may be if you are in the habit of avoiding things that make you uncomfortable.
Sure, you need to take the trash to the curb every Wednesday night. You know that. Your spouse knows that. Yet, you may avoid the task by putting it off until Thursday morning every single week.
You still get it done so what does it matter? As it happens, it matters a lot because you are reinforcing the message that it is okay to avoid doing things that you don’t want to do.
This goes beyond procrastination and turns into a habit. When you get into the habit of avoiding things you don’t feel comfortable doing, you set yourself up for giving up in the future.
The Science of Habits
The science behind the habitual behavior is vast, and fairly complicated. But there are a few points that will benefit you now. Here are the things you need to know about you and your habits:
1. Habits Are Deeply Hard Wired
According to experts, your habits, or behaviors, are performed automatically because they are wired so deeply in your brain. You reap the benefits, though. Things like your work commute are done without extra thinking, so you can think about important things instead, like what you’re doing for lunch.
2. Habitual Behavior Can Be Overhauled
You may have assumed this, but science now supports it. Your brain doesn’t relinquish complete control when it comes to your habitual behavior. MIT neuroscientists found that there’s a small part of your brain that has a switch to control your habits moment-by-moment.
What does this mean for you? Habits are more changeable than you may have previously believed.
3. It Takes 66 Days to Form a Habit
Scientists discovered the magic number of days to form a new habit, and it’s 66. This means that it will take 66 days of repeating a behavior in response to a situation for your brain to develop an automatic reaction.
Is it the same for bad habits? Yes, the same applies. If you are trying to change bad habits, the bad news is that they don’t go away completely. Ever.
So, that habit you have of avoiding things you don’t want to do because it makes you uncomfortable? It is yours to stay.
However, while it’s true that bad habits are hard to break, new habitual behaviors have a stronger influence on your behavior.
The take-away message is that you can train yourself to do things you don’t want to do, even if you spent years training your brain to do otherwise. Be diligent about your newly acquired good habit, though, because if you aren’t the bad habit will come creeping back.
Okay, you may have decided to develop new habits. These habits may help you to be more successful and prosperous in your work and personal relationships. You’re committed to doing it, yet you still haven’t started yet.
Why are you stalling? It may be that you “don’t feel like it” because of XYZ.
You aren’t alone when you avoid things you don’t feel like doing, but this lack of motivation may be counterproductive to your new goals in life. And it is reinforcing your avoidance behaviors.
Your goals won’t accomplish themselves if you don’t get started, but your motivation leaves a lot to be desired. Your motivation, or lack thereof, may be the culprit.
Check out these 4 types of motivation killers and what to do about them. Some may even sound familiar.
1. Yelling At Yourself
Are you your own drill sergeant? That may work for some people, but most don’t like being yelled at. Even if they are doing it to themselves.
What happens when you yell at yourself to do something? You rebel. Against yourself. Talk about counterproductive!
Instead, try talking to yourself as if you were really good friends. Developing a good relationship with yourself based on self-respect and be nice.
2. Feeling Overwhelmed
Are you looking at the sink of dishes and thinking to yourself, “this is hopeless?” It doesn’t take much to feel overwhelmed. Eventually, feelings of frustration and hopelessness creep in and these can be automatic motivation killers.
To get past this, you can try breaking your task up into manageable chunks. Instead of focusing on the big picture, or the source of your overwhelmed feelings, picture your smaller tasks instead.
3. Needing to Please Others
If you care too much about what others will think, you may find it difficult to get motivated. Why?
One of the keys to motivation is knowing what you want. How can you push yourself to do something you don’t want to do if you don’t know what you want or why you want it? It’s nice to think of others, but in this instance it may be detrimental.
Instead of focusing on how others will react to your behavior, think of why you want to do the action. In other words, do you want to stay later at work because you have a project you need to fine tune? Or because it may look good to your managers if you do?
While both can be motivators to perform one action, your main reasons need to be for you or you may talk yourself out of it.
4. Focusing On the Task
Focusing on the task is a quick way to lose your motivation. Don’t want to clean your kitchen? Picturing the task of cleaning may be overwhelming, and you may convince yourself to do it later, if ever.
Rather than picturing the task you don’t want to do, picture the desired outcome. Think of your clean kitchen and not the idea of cleaning. Having the positive results in your head may help you push through with doing things you don’t want to do.
Now it’s time for the pep talk. If you want good things in life, you have to work for them. Even if that means doing things you don’t want to do.
The hard things are what make your accomplishments feel that much sweeter. So get into the habit of pushing past your levels of discomfort to reach your goals.
Will you always succeed if you remain motivated? Probably not. But developing healthy habits will help you pick yourself up and try again, even in the face of failure.