Making Change, in 5 tiny steps

Making Change, in 5 tiny steps

From time to time people ask me “how do I get out of a bad habit?” Good question. But if you really want to make change, think about it in terms of creating new habits. The new habit will serve your intended purpose, and in time replace the old bad habit.

Sometimes the thought of changing something can seem overwhelming. Where to start? Well I am a firm believer in the benefit of taking small steps in the direction of travel, rather than trying to tackle everything at the same time, and probably becoming overwhelmed and disheartened. Small steps can add up over time, and the secret is to start with something easy. Here is a simple 5 stage formula for making change.

1. Create new small habits (an easy act which relates to a bigger change)
2. Link the new small habit to an established habit or routine (this acts as an anchor)
3. Praise yourself immediately you have done the new small habit (to give your brain a positive emotional moment which helps memory)
4. Repeat every day for a week (best time is first thing in the morning or last thing at night),
5. Notice, review and adjust if necessary.

It’s that simple.

Kerry’s Story:
Kerry is a busy professional who wanted to get fitter, but every time she made a resolution to do something about it she failed to get started. She had plans to go running but they never got off the ground. She thought maybe swimming might be fun, but somehow she never found time to go to the pool. She remembered how much she enjoyed Yoga years ago, but now she couldn’t find a convenient Yoga class to join. The task seemed overwhelming to her, and she did not know where to start. So she did nothing.

Then one day, during a Coaching session, Kerry decided that she would create some new small habits that would take her in the right direction towards her fitness goal, and which she could build into her normal daily routine.

Every morning Kerry was in the habit of taking a bus from outside her house and travelling to her office. An easy act for her would be to get off the bus one stop earlier and walk the final part of her journey to work. So this is what she did. Her Coach reminded her about the importance of linking a positive emotion to the new habit, so she gave herself a virtual pat on the back as she completed her brisk walk to her office, and smiled to herself with smug satisfaction.

Kerry maintained her new small habit for several weeks and was very satisfied with the outcome. She felt fitter and was sure that the walking was doing her good, and that the habit was established. Then she went away on holiday for 2 weeks. When Kerry came back to work she travelled to her office as before, enjoying her walk at the end. The new habit had become established as part of her daily routine.

Kerry was pleased that she had created a new habit in line with her personal fitness goal, and she felt confident that the new habit would be easy to re-establish following the occasional break when she had time off work. Furthermore, having tried and tested the technique of making change in tiny steps, Kerry could now apply this method to other areas of her life when she felt the need to make change.

© Barbara Capstick

Spring 2015.