When it comes to achievement and success in any part of life- be it health, productivity, or business– we have to set goals for ourselves and create our own internal framework that:
- sets us up for goal achievement
- and maintains successful outcomes once the goal is achieved.
This framework is the base for all actions you take on a conscious and subconscious level.
When we want to get something done, and we have a conscious goal in mind, it’s much easier to take action on those goals and fight against the entropy that pulls us back to where we started. The problem is, when we start towards a new goal, we may have conscious power, but eventually the goal will slip out of mind. When we’re not conscious of the goal, we act autonomously out of habit. Some habits help, like putting down the screen before bed, and some habits hurt, like me staying in bed for an hour after waking up.
When we’re trying to achieve goals, we need to create a base filled with good habits, and devoid of those habits that will negatively affect the chances of achieving that goal.
Not conscious of our own habits.
The problem is: most of the time we’re unaware of the habits that we have because they are autonomous subconscious actions.
The first step toward behavior change is awareness.
Training yourself out of habits.
The simplest way to change behavior is through the punishment-reward system. When you train a dog, if it does something wrong, you punish it. Spray it with a squirt bottle or slip its hind with a newspaper. This causes the dog to associate that behavior with punishment. So that’s what you should do, right? Punish yourself for indulging in your bad habit? Nope!
There is a difference between training a dog and training yourself in behavior change. The difference is awareness. If I punish my dog for biting, it is in immediate response to the biting. The dog isn’t intentionally looking to change its behavior. If I have the goal to get out of bed within 5 minutes of waking up, and I just realized that I’ve spent the past half hour hanging out in bed on my phone, the last thing I did was not the habit. The last thing I did was become aware- become aware of the habit.
Punishment creates ignorance.
To immediately punish myself would be to punish my awareness. Eventually, because of the reinforcement of the punishment, I would become less and less aware. This causes you to forget about your negative habits, making it much harder to achieve that final goal, if at all.
Reward creates awareness.
The lesson to be learned is: Reward your awareness of your bad habit. When you reward your awareness by congratulating yourself or even giving yourself a pleasurable reward like candy, your habit of awareness is reinforced, causing you to be aware more often.
First you’ll be aware right after you’ve done the habit, then you’ll be aware of it while you’re doing it. Eventually you’ll be aware of yourself wanting to do the habit. When you reach this point, as I’ve talked about before, you’ll have the ability to turn your habit into a choice. When given that choice of bad habit or good habit, you’ll be able to consciously choose the good habit- and put conscious effort into achieving your end-goal.
Awareness drives change.
Eventually, out of lack of fulfillment, the bad habit will no longer be a habit at all, and the replacement behavior will begin to be a part of your habits, setting you up for success.
The next time I realize that I’m staying in bed too long, I’m going to reward myself, and then get out of bed.