How To Stop The Domino Effect of Bad Habits
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You know by now that good habits are essential to your success. But what happens if you have a lot of negative habits?
Too often, habits act as dominos. You start eating takeout one night a week because you’re too tired to cook, and the next thing you know, that’s become a reasonable excuse for eating takeout whenever you feel tired. You put on extra weight, which makes you feel tired more often, and so you spend more time sitting in front of the television “trying to recover.” The next thing you know, you’re eating takeout on the couch every night when you should be doing just about anything else.
This is how bad patterns start, and how life gets so far out of control that it can seem impossible to change anything. But thinking that way won’t help. It will only make you feel helpless, and rob you of any sense of control you have over your life.
Beating the domino effect of bad habits isn’t easy, but it can be done. And once you get started, you’ll start to see the good side of this tendency, and realize that positive habits can cause the same effect.
If you’re ready to start on this journey, here’s where to start.
1. Be honest with yourself The first step to changing the dominos of your bad habits is to stop lying to yourself. Unless you’re sick, you’re not sitting on the couch because you’re too exhausted to do anything else. You’re sitting on the couch because it’s easy, and you’ve fallen into the habit of doing the easy thing.
It doesn’t take that much extra effort to walk around the block for ten minutes, or to make a salad instead of eating fried foods. You can even order a salad from your favorite takeaway place if you really don’t want to cook. So, stop telling yourself that it’s too hard. Admit that you just don’t really want to eat salad, and you really don’t want to go for a walk.
And if that isn’t the case, and you really are too exhausted to do anything, you might want to go and see a doctor.
2. Work out where you really are This is all part of being honest with yourself. Chances are, if you’re lying to yourself about your reason for sitting on the couch all night, you’re also hiding from the extent of the problem. You can’t change something if you don’t understand it, or really see the full extent of it. So, put some time aside, and look at your life.
If your bad habits revolve around your weight and fitness, then weigh yourself. Keep a food diary to keep track of what you’re actually eating. If you’re procrastinating about work, download a time tracker, and see how much you’re actually working, and how much time you spend doing other things. Don’t try to change anything at this point, just force yourself to acknowledge the problem.
3. Don’t let being overwhelmed derail your efforts As I said previously, bad habits are like dominos. So, if you have bad health and fitness habits, chances are that you have bad work habits, bad financial habits, bad relationship habits… the list can be endless.
Ignore that to start with. The last thing you want is to look around at your life, convince yourself that it’s a mess that can’t be saved, and just give up.
Instead, focus your mind on one aspect of your life, and let the others go. The best place to start with this process is usually with your health. Improving this aspect will give you more energy and motivation to start changing the rest. But this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Choose whatever part of your life feels the most urgent, and ignore the rest. For now.
4. Go even smaller You’re already starting small by focusing on one area of your life, but if you want to make big changes, then you need to go even smaller. The worst thing you can do is look at your health, realize that you want to change everything, and make goals to that effect.
Nothing is more demotivating than realizing you suddenly have to exercise more, meditate, go on a diet, lose 10kgs, and be more active generally, when the most you’ve done in years is click the remote. To be quite frank, the idea of this is enough to drive anyone under the covers for a long time.
Set one goal. Make it something you’re really excited about achieving. And after that, you need to go even smaller.
5. Remember that positive habits are dominos too Bad habits tend to accumulate, but remember that good habits do the same thing. This means that making one small change in one part of your life will impact and change every part of your life. So, you don’t have to set a goal to exercise more, and immediately start running 10 miles a day. Doing this won’t have the big effect that you’re after. Instead, it will have the effect of demotivating you, and driving you back onto the couch.
What you want is one small thing, one action that’s easy to do, and that will get you closer to your goal. Walk around the block every day. Do ten minutes of yoga. Do five push-ups. This is enough to get you started. The key is to do it every day, no matter what.
6. Don’t accept excuses If you make your new habit small enough, there shouldn’t be any reason why you can’t do it. Unless you’re the victim of a terrible accident, or catch a virus that lands you in bed for a week, you’re never too tired to walk around the block. If you have kids and can’t find someone to watch them, take them with you. They’ll probably enjoy the outing even more than you will. And if it’s raining, take an umbrella, or simply walk around your living room for ten minutes.
The most important thing is to see your reasons for avoiding your tiny action as what they are. Excuses. And if you really want to make changes, you just can’t accept excuses anymore.
7. Focus on building As time goes on, and the good habit becomes a part of your routine, you can focus on building on that foundation. Walk for 15 minutes. Do 10 push-ups. As you get stronger and fitter, it will be easier to add more on top of what you’re already doing. And on the day you sign up for a class or join a walking club, that’s when you’ll start to see the domino effect that good habits can have on your life.
Small changes really can (and usually do) lead to bigger ones. Have you ever experienced this for yourself? I’d love to hear some inspiring stories about it. Tell me your tales on Twitter or Instagram.