Bad habits can be tough to break. After all, they've probably become ingrained over many years. But I believe absolutely that we can change any behaviour we want to, given a solid intention and a liberal dose of willpower. Many people believe the well-known saying that "leopards never change their spots" – but I am completely convinced that the opposite is true. I've seen the proof countless times – and some of the changes I've witnessed have been truly radical.
I've been putting this belief to the test over the past couple of weeks. One of my worst habits is my tendency to snack. Give me a packet of crisps before supper or a bar of chocolate after lunch and I have the willpower of a damp cardboard box. As I would dearly like to lose a few pounds I decided drastic action needed to be taken. To help keep me on the straight and narrow, and to practice putting some new habits in place, I used a simple coaching exercise called "10 Daily Habits". The key to this exercise is that you get to tick a box when you've achieved what you set out to achieve, which personally I find really motivating. This is how it works:
- Draw a simple table – 8 columns wide and up to 11 deep.
- Down the left side list up to 10 things that you want to do on a daily basis. (Using my example, I specified six things, including "No chocolate after lunch", "No food after 8pm" and "Drink 5 glasses of water a day".)
- Along the top, write the days of the week – Monday to Sunday.
- Each day, as you achieve the goal you've set yourself you can have the pleasure and satisfaction of ticking the box.
This exercise has really worked for me. The crazy thing is that even though it's only a piece of paper – and a piece of paper that only I will see – I honestly feel that I have to succeed so that I can Tick the Box!
Another exercise to help focus on positive behaviour is called the "21-Day Positive Focus", which is based on the theory that it takes 21 days to break a habit. Each day, for 3 weeks, write down 5 things you've achieved that day. Next, consider why they were important to you. Thirdly, make a note of how you will build on that achievement in the days to come.
This exercise is great because not only does it help you to break old habits, it also forces you to focus on all the things you've achieved in a day. Perverse creatures that we are, we're much more likely to get to dwell on all the things we haven't done – or those things we failed to do well – so this exercise does wonders for self confidence too.
© Annabel Sutton Coaching Tips 2009
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