How To Create a Mini-Framework of Positive Habit Reinforcement

This post is in part inspired by the e-book Holistic Learning, by Scott H Young.  I highly recommend you check it out.

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I was speaking to a lovely young lady the other day about who we are, and how we differ from our parents.  She pointed out to me how characteristically, she is much like her mother.  Habitually, however, the opposite is true.  I thought about my own father, and how true that was for myself, too.  And it made me wonder how two people who are so much alike at their core could be so different when it comes to how they live their life.

They key to it all is habits.  In many ways, our habits will define what we accomplish on this earth.  If you really want to change the direction of your life, you might be in desperate need of changing your habits.

The problem is, many of us stick with habits that we developed since we were children, or have otherwise been doing so long that we just can’t seem to shake them.  Maybe when you were a kid you stayed up all night long watching cartoons.  Maybe you always have a cigarette after a meal.  Maybe the first thing you do when you get into work in the morning is check your email, or the first thing you do when you get home from work is turn on the tv.

Must. Get. Booger.

Must. Get. Booger.

These things seemed harmless at first, but like a frankenstorm from the tropics mixing with an arctic jet stream, a full moon, and record high sea levels, at some point they just barreled out of control.  Now you struggle to wake up on time in the morning.  Or smoke a pack a day.  Or you miss opportunities to make those important phone calls when people are least busy.  Or you end up vegging out in front of the tube for two hours, and before you know it you’ve accomplished nothing.

Habits are hard to break.  The reason being, almost everything you do is habitual.  Without you even know it, you have created a framework, wherein one habit reinforces another, even though they are seemingly unrelated.   When you want to change one habit, you’re facing a ton of opposition from all the other habits that structure the framework you are currently living upon.  This is why it’s easiest to make changes in our lives when big changes occur, because it breaks our habits.  An example would be moving to a new city, or starting a new job.  It will be easier for a person to break old habits if they do so while experiencing these other changes in their life.

Sometimes we want to change things, but don’t have the luxury of being thrown head first into a lake of freezing cold water with a voice yelling at us from behind saying “Sink or swim!”

Look out lady!  That shark is definitely not animatronic!

Look out lady! That shark is definitely not animatronic!

Luckily, you can short circuit this framework by building a new ‘mini-framework’ upon which to change those habits which you know are bad for you, but ohhh so hard to break.

How To Create a Mini-Framework of Positive Habit Reinforcement:

Grab a pen and small piece of paper (or index card).  You will get the best results if you write this stuff down and stick it somewhere you will see it often, like the wall next to the bathroom mirror, or underneath your computer monitor.  Draw a line down the center and label the two columns with “Old Habit” and “New Habit”.

  1. First you must decide what it is that you need to change, you want to change, but has been difficult for you to change in the past.  Write it down.
  2. Decide what it is that you want to replace it with.  Write it down.
  3. Now think of a few other smaller ‘helper habits’ that you could add to the list of new habits.  They could be changes from an old habit, or just something entirely new.  Include something that you can do IMMEDIATELY (like organize your documents.)  You should have at least one easy ‘helper habit’ that you will perform daily.
  4. Review your list often, and make sure you are sticking too it.

By creating several smaller helper habits, you create an environment of change in which to reinforce the new framework you are creating.  By performing small, easily acclimated habits in your daily routine, you not only reinforce change, but remind yourself to stick with the bigger, harder to accomplish habits that you wish to address.

An example would be finding a new job.  Perhaps you’re stuck in a job you don’t much care for, but finding new employment is a difficult and draining process, not one which most people look forward too (especially in this economy.)  To make the process easier, couple it with a few habits that will help keep the momentum going:

Old Habit—>New Habit

Not actively seeking employment —> Review job postings every morning before work

Helper Habits:

Watch tv before bed —->  Read a book before bed

—>Start a new strength training program, training 3 days per week

—>Wash and put away all dishes after cooking dinner

—>Brush teeth every day after eating lunch

etc…

By reinforcing your big changes with smaller ones, you will effectively create a new framework within your subconscience.  Every time you perform one of the smaller helper habits, you will be reminding yourself to perform the bigger habit.  Reviewing your written list will further reinforce your habitual framework.  By changing your habits in clusters, you can effectively change your life.

What other ways have you found to effectively change your habits?  Leave a comment below and let the world know what has worked for you!

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