One of the questions that are often raised is what a habit is and how to cultivate it. There are two parts to the question. The first one is about the general definition of habits and the second part is about cultivating it. A person may have multiple habits. Some of them could be old and some could be new. One would always like to change bad habits and retain or develop good habits. The million dollar question is how to cultivate good habits even if they are not part of your habits currently. The first step in the process is understanding what a habit is.
What is a Habit?
Broadly speaking, a habit is the repetition of some actions a person gets into. Habits can play a major role in one’s life and can determine their success. Habits are behavior that is repeated consistently and they can form part of an action or routine. Some of the definitions of the term habit are as follows.
- It is a behavioral pattern depicting frequent repetitions of specific actions;
- They can be natural or cultivated; and
- It is a repetitive action that a person indulges knowingly or unknowingly.
How Habits are Cultivated
An action becomes a habit when it is done repeatedly and eventually becomes a behavioral pattern. Initially, the actions may be consciously acted upon but with time they develop into habits when such actions are repeated unconsciously. According to James Clear, there are 4 stages in a habit :
- Cue – a trigger that is send to your brain to initiate a behavior. This cue is associated to a reward. The brain knows that this cue brings us closer to a reward that we want which leads us to craving;
- Craving – This is the force that drives the habit. The feeling and relief that is provided by the action what craves you to do it in the first place.
- Response – An action that is followed by the trigger which also depends on whether you are capable of doing it or not. If it is easy, sure you will respond quickly to the cue without putting much thought to it. However, if it is hard, you will give tons of excuses to not do it.
- Reward – This is the end result of a habit. It satisfies your craving when you successfully get the reward.
Good and Bad Habits
A person can develop good habits like exercising, reading and meditating. At the same time, anyone can develop bad habits like smoking, alcohol consumption, and even getting involved in drug abuse. While getting a bad habit is easier because the reward feels so much more satisfying but developing good habits often require cultivation. It is harder too because the level of conscious efforts in forming a habit is often felt as overwhelming. This means you have to put in more efforts in developing such habits with 3D factors like dedication, determination, and discipline.
Consciously Forming Habits
If you want to form a good habit, then you need to start looking at your ‘WHY’. The ‘Why’ should be strong enough to push you to do it. Start looking at why you need to do this good habit in the first place.
You may want to have a healthy lifestyle so that you could walk your daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. You may want to be the best basketball player in your team because you want to get the scholarship. It can be anything. YOU have to determine what it is going to motivate you to get the reward that you are craving for.
Associate the habit with another habit to create a routine. For example, if you want to start meditating every morning, then start by:
- Brushing teeth
- Wash face
Do it consciously everyday, eventually it becomes a routine that you will never be able to do continue your day without completing these 3 action the first thing in the morning.
The period in Forming Habits
Research says that it takes between 21 to 245 days to cultivate a habit. It depends because every individual is different. It may take 21 days for you but takes 45 days to another. However, the period to cultivate a habit is not important but doing it continuously without worrying whether or not it becomes a habit to you.
Have a big calendar, start crossing a bit ‘X’ on it every time you manage to do a habit. Put it in your room (or any place that is visible for you to look at it daily). Promise yourself that you will not break the X streak.
Changing a Habit
There are some who look forward to change a bad habit. Changing a bad habit can be tricky because you have to undo the contentment and relief that is given by this bad habit. An example is when you decide to change addiction like smoking, alcohol consumption, and the most common bad habit in today’s world is the overuse of mobile phones.
Changing or even eliminating an existing habit is closely related to the impact on your mind, body, personality, and social standing. You need to consider the stage in which your habit is presently working. The older the habit the more difficult it is going to be to change or eliminating it. However, if you are strong and determined, nothing will stop you from passing the hurdles. The necessity is identifying the nature of the goal setting and work for its accomplishment.
To be or Not to be
When it comes to cultivating a habit it could involve changes in your daily routine. You will need to relook into your lifestyle and make the necessary changes that aligns to your new goal. It will be hard initially but with determination and focus, it can be done eventually. If you are looking for tips to cultivate good habits, check out the 11 tips to cultivate good habits.
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