I understood how she felt. She was in the middle of habit-reconstruction – a challenging place to be.
When we work on changing our habits, we need to work hard. We need to harness every human power to choose change over old-time comfort.
1. Pace: Aim for gradual change, rather than extreme character overhaul. It is not wise for a person to swing from one extreme to another. A person usually likes his habits and feels like they are his second nature, and, therefore, rapid change feels unsettling and disruptive. Rather, a person should aim for gradual behavior modification. This will help his new habits solidify and become permanent.
This step-by-step process ensures that we really integrate and internalize the information…so that we can eternalize it.
2. Repeat: Do the new action once. Do it twice. Do it a third time. Eventually, it will become part of you. After all, every habit is the sum total of an action repeated over and over again until it has become second nature. You can consciously create a habit by repeating your new action over and over again.
3. Act: Your internal chemistry is directly affected by your external actions. Your perceptions can be changed through repeated actions. For example, a normally kindhearted person who is commissioned as state executioner will become a hardhearted person. Another less extreme, but equally true example is a disorganized mother who makes timely bedtime a top priority will become a more consistent person. The best part is that as these new habits become second nature, your actions line up with your perceptions and you want to choose correctly.
4. Record: Keep a daily record of your progress. This is helpful throughout your climb. At the beginning, written records are important because they make you aware of your actions. All too often, people do not even notice how often they slip up. For example, the critical mother may view herself as a nurturing, loving mother – until she starts tallying up how many times she spoke sarcastically, negatively, sharply, etc. With the facts glaring at her, written in black and white, she can be motivated to improve.
Even once you are making upward strides, these daily records are important, since they help you notice your progress. Most people enjoy seeing their own successes documented and will try to beat their own records.
A healthy growth pattern usually resembles a gradual upward curve. If you notice a downward trend or the habit is not progressing properly, take stock: When does this breakdown occur? What triggers it? One particular child? My particular weaknesses? One part of the day? This vigilance will prevent a relapse and perpetuate new habits.
5. Say It: Link mind and heart by saying your goals out loud. Concretize your vision by saying, “I will speak with firmness and calmness. I will not raise my voice.” As you progress and move up your ladder, switch your key sentence. “I will wait for compliance and show my child that I believe that he will listen. I will use the cooperation techniques.” When confronted by a tricky situation, your own voice will ring in your ears and prompt you to choose wisely.
6. Visualize: Imagine the new you. Picture yourself standing at the finish line, living your new sweet life. For example, see yourself walking over to your children, making eye contact, saying, “Five more minutes of playtime until supper.” In five minutes, you go outside and walk them inside to the table. Firmness replaced raised voices.
Remember: Only you can help yourself.
Know: You can do it.