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How Habit Change Can Transform Your Life

Updated: Apr 12, 2020

Habit change is the hot topic in healthcare today. When we think of the word “habit”, we tend to think of things like:

  • waking up for work at the same time every day

  • eating the same thing for breakfast

  • brushing our teeth every night before bed

And while these are indeed examples of habits, there’s so much more to them than what we see on the surface. Habits aren’t just mundane tasks we perform on auto-pilot. Habits are the #1 determinants of our quality of life, and they’re responsible for driving about 40 percent of our daily actions. What this means is that nearly half of the decisions you make are unconscious.

The words “habit” and “behavior” are often used interchangeably because habits are a type of behavior.

Habits are “automated behaviors”. They’re routines we perform without thinking about them. Our brains form habits to help us function better and be more efficient. By performing certain daily behaviors automatically and turning them into habits, this frees up more of our brainpower, time, and energy to concentrate on other more challenging things (like learning a new skill, for instance).

Habits are a great thing when they’re beneficial to us. The problem is, not all habits are created equal. Habits fall into three categories:

  • Health-promoting (e.g. working out every day at 6 am)

  • Health-destroying (e.g. smoking)

  • Neutral—they don’t positively or negatively impact well-being (e.g. reading the daily paper with breakfast each morning)

With every ingrained behavior you perform, you are casting a vote for who you want to be. Your health-promoting habits cast a vote for being the most radiant and alive version of you, while your health-destroying habits erode that version.

Most of us have a pretty good idea of the habits in our lives that we’d like to change because they aren’t serving—or they’re downright harmful. But the power-pull of habits tends to keep us stuck. The truth is, old habits die hard because they are literally wired into our brains. But when you change your habits, you can change your life.

Change Your Habits, Change Your Life

Here’s some great news: any habit—no matter how stubborn or ingrained—is within your power to change. You may be thinking, “If it’s so EASY, then why do I have such a hard time kicking my bad habits?” Contrary to popular belief, changing habits doesn’t come down to willpower as much as it does to a lack of understanding of how habits work.

As bestselling author Charles Duhigg explains in his book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology discovered something back in the 90s called the “Habit Loop”. The Habit Loop is a simple neurological loop that controls every habit and consists of three parts:

  • A cue

  • A routine

  • A reward

You can read all about it in his book, but to summarize, he details a universal framework for ridding yourself of problem behaviors. It begins with first identifying the “routine” or behavior you want to change. Charles uses his own afternoon cookie habit at work as an example. Once you’ve identified the habit you want to break, it’s time to determine the “cue” that’s triggering your habit in the first place (e.g. boredom, hunger, etc.). Next, you need to hone in on what “reward” you’re extracting from this habit (e.g. the cookie, distraction, socialization, etc.). Last, it’s time to create a new plan (or habit) that’s based on conscious choices and what you’ve learned about your cue, routine, and reward. Duhigg shares that he realized his habit wasn’t about the cookie, but his need for socialization. He swapped his unhealthy 3:30 pm daily habit with a 10-minute socialization break. Repeated over time, it became his new habit.

How to Break Bad Habits for Good

Habit change is one of the core methodologies I teach at Sophic Partners, LLC because as mentioned above, when you change a habit, you change a life. (And we’re all about transforming lives here!)

If you’re looking to break bad habits for good, habit change coaching is the secret weapon to creating true and lasting positive transformation in your life that supports your well-being. And the best part?

This method of coaching helps you change your habits without having to remember to do things differently. I teach a transformation process, the Sophic Steps process, that helps you learn how to make lifestyle changes that stick. What’s particularly powerful about Sophic Steps is that it creates lasting behavior change by facilitating identity change.

Sophic Steps helps clients anchor into a new desired identity and way of living by leveraging the power of habit. This process facilitates neurological restructuring at the identity level—so habits aren’t just something you have to remember to do…they become who you are.

When we make change at the identity level, follow-through becomes automatic. The habits that create our best life become non-negotiables. Not through discipline and willpower or punishment and reward loops, but because it’s who we are. We are choosing healthy living. This is radically different from most other coaching models.

Sophic Steps is backed by years of study, research, and practical application and incorporates evidence-based coaching principles, such as:

  • motivational interviewing

  • linguistic programming

  • positive psychology

  • the science of habit change

  • mindfulness practices

This approach to creating positive improvements in the areas of health and wellness using Sophic Steps involves looking at the whole person and assessing how various areas of their life are interrelated, and how those affect overall health. We address the whole person, including physical health, mental outlook, social engagement, spiritual connection, professional potential, and financial stability. We help clients understand the interdependencies of all six key lifestyle management areas so they can develop sustainable, health-promoting habits, break the vicious cycle of destructive habits, and increase confidence, productivity and their overall well-being. Here's to living "Wise and Well"!

(Source: Health Coach Institute – March 2020)

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