If we want new results in any area of our life, it goes without saying that we must also change some habits - giving up old ways of doing things that no longer serve us and creating new habits that support us. Usually, new habits are not easily formed; it takes a lot of determination and grit to release certain lifestyle habits and to create new ones. The American writer, Mark Twain, once made the remark that: "Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time."
Often it is helpful to have a bag of tools, techniques and practices to help us to ingrain the new habit until it becomes our default mode of operation. Here are a few practices that can help in the development of any new habits you want:
1. Surround yourself with reminders
This could include having a vision board, putting up photos or encouraging posters of a goal you want to reach, and buying relevant books on a subject. Having a mentor or coach, especially someone who has already achieved what you want to accomplish and can give you advice from direct experience, is one of the most invaluable tools to ensure success. The support of a good friend who encourages you to stay on track or will hold you accountable can also be of great help.
2. Enrol in a class or program
Taking a regular class or a course can certainly support some lifestyle changes. Goals such as attaining a certain weight or gaining skills - like playing the guitar or trumpet, or learning to speak a new language - often require taking many steps repetitively over a considerable period of time, and by enrolling in a class or program you increase your chances for success.
3. The no-exceptions rules
This is a tough tool for more determined folk: once you decide to give up a bad habit that no longer serves you, it is imperative to start behaving as the new person you wish to be and not to make any exceptions whatsoever. As we all know, one more slice of that cake beyond what is healthy for you can lead to one more, and then one more, until you're back in the grip of the old habit you no longer want.
4. Deliberate practice
Set aside time to deliberately practice the new habit. If you're learning to be a public speaker, you don't wait till the once-a-week session at Toastmasters or the Speaking Club: you set aside time and practice - just like professional musicians or athletes or tennis players do. This tool can be applied to a huge range of goals and habits, including the tough habits like smoking. This is also a favourite AA method and can be applied in small chunks. For example, you can consciously decide, "For the next one hour I'm going to be a non-smoker" and keep that resolve, and then gradually extend the time as you build the new habit muscles.
5. Go to a boot camp
An even more effective way to jump start a new habit or lifestyle change is to go to a boot camp - where for a week or so, you practice a new lifestyle with intensity. This will take you out of your normal environment, build confidence and give you a chance for a clean break from an old way of life and a quick start of the new. It can be a great gift to oneself.