How To Develop a New Habit And Forget The Old One

In today’s article you’re going to learn everything you need to know about how to develop a new habit and forget the old one.

The average life expectancy of a resident of the United States is 78 years. Scientists claim that the biologically programmed age of the human body is around 90 years. Where do we lose those dozen or so years of life?

This question intrigued Dan Buettner, a journalist for “National Geographic,” who decided to investigate the differences in habits between people over 90 years old and others. Along with several experts, he identified the so-called “blue zones,” places in the world where people live exceptionally long lives while maintaining health and vitality.

Buettner sought a common denominator in the lifestyle of the inhabitants of these “blue zones” to find a universal recipe for longevity. He visited these places and talked to the people living there.

In the northern part of the Japanese island of Okinawa, he met the longest-living people in the world, who do not suffer from any chronic diseases. There are five times more centenarians than in America, five times fewer cases of colon and breast cancer, and six times fewer cases of heart disease.

Similar to Sardinia, these people remain professionally active practically until the end of their lives, and the concept of retiring does not exist. Instead, they find a reason to get out of bed every morning.

Dan Buettner found more centenarians among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California. In this ethnically diverse community, the expected lifespan is, on average, ten years longer than that of the average American. Adventists dedicate 15 minutes each day to quiet prayer, even if they are stressed with work or burdened with responsibilities.

They practice this habit for years, day in and day out. Members of this community include a 97-year-old multimillionaire and actively working surgeon, a 103-year-old vigorous cowboy who surfs on weekends, and a 104-year-old woman who exercises every morning and volunteers in seven charitable institutions.

Dan Buettner’s research proves that there are ways to lead long, happy, and healthy lives. Perhaps you think it’s a matter of genetics and the place where centenarians were born? Not entirely. To a large extent, their longevity is attributed to their lifestyle, specifically their daily small habits.

Summing up his observations, Buettner identified nine habits of longevity. He considered physical activity the most important. Members of the studied communities do not rely on special conveniences: they mainly walk, work in the field, and clean their own homes.

Typically, their daily efforts bring them joy. Long-lived people know how to organize their lives, have a consistent worldview, and cherish the time when they can relax. They know why they live, and they are active all the time.

We can learn a lot from the communities described by Dan Buettner. The secret lies in habits – how we typically think about the world and behave every day. “Habits are powerful ingredients of our lives,” says Stephen R. Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” “Because they are constant and often unconscious ways of behaving, they express our character every day and make our actions effective… or ineffective.”

The authors of the guide “How to Break Bad Habits?” James M. Claiborn and Cherry Pedrick emphasize that a habit is a learned, automatic action that is difficult to abandon. They are trivial actions that we don’t even think about the purpose and consequences of: putting on slippers after getting out of bed, brushing our teeth, turning on the radio upon entering the kitchen, morning coffee, showering, applying makeup, driving to work.

These automatic behaviors simplify life. First, we create habits, and then habits shape us – as the English poet John Dryden used to say. Therefore, it’s worth considering in which direction our automatic behaviors are leading us. Do they make us who we want to be? Or do habits complicate our lives and harm our health, work, or relationships with others?

Maybe you already know what you want to do to live healthier and happier? You promise yourself a change, manage to implement it for a while, and then go back to old habits. Why?

To become who you want to be, you must be prepared for continuous self-improvement. Change never happens without a bit of discomfort, even if it leads to something better. Moreover, constructive habits serve our long-term goals.

How To Develop a New Habit And Forget The Old One

To efficiently start learning new behaviors, first, take a look at Stephen R. Covey’s theory of effective habits. He described 7 habits of highly effective people, which are components of continual life improvement.

1. Proactivity

Proactivity is the first and fundamental habit of effective action, which means being primarily self-aware and responsible for your own life. A person guided by proactivity knows that the initiative is in their hands, and what happens to them is the result of their decisions.

Proactive individuals do not surrender to external conditions or the influences of others. They have the courage and maturity necessary to face failures, and in difficult situations, they consider how to find a solution.

On the contrary, reactive individuals succumb to environmental influences. They passively wait for someone to take care of them, hoping for circumstances to become more favorable.

Reactive people lack a sense of control over their lives, do not take initiative, but rather adapt to prevailing conditions. Yet, “if you wait to be shaped, you will be shaped… Development and opportunity will go in another direction,” Covey concludes.

Practical Tips:

Differences between proactive and reactive individuals can be heard in their language. Examine them.

Reactive Language / Proactive Language

He’s driving me crazy / I control my feelings
I won’t agree to that / I can give an effective presentation
I would do it if … / Let’s see what can be done
I can’t do anything / I choose
I have to do this / I can choose the right response
I must / I prefer

To implement the habit of proactivity, Covey suggests the following experiment: “Choose a frustrating problem from your professional or personal life. Determine if it is directly, indirectly, or not at all within your control. Identify the first step to solve the problem, and… take that step.”

2. Start with the End in Mind

It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of tasks—working harder and climbing the career ladder only to discover that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall. Often, human successes are hollow inside and achieved at a much higher cost than they are worth.

“How different our lives are when we really know what is most important to us, and keep that vision in mind every day. If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place. We may be very busy, we may be very efficient, but we will also be truly effective only when we begin with the end in mind,” emphasizes Covey.

Practical Tip:

Set aside some time away from all activities and start working on your life mission.

3. First, do what is most important

E.M. Gray dedicated his life to finding the common denominator of success. It turned out that people who achieved it followed the essence of the third habit—doing things in the right order.

They started with what was most important in their lives, actions aligned with their values and life mission. Covey emphasizes that implementing this habit often requires the strength to do something you don’t feel like doing and acting daily in accordance with your own values, not under the influence of impulses or shallow desires.

Practical Tip:

Reflect on the following two questions:

1. Name one activity you could be doing (but aren’t) every day that would significantly improve your personal life.
2. What would yield similar results in your professional life?

4. Think Win-Win

This habit is based on the belief that there is enough for everyone and one person’s success does not mean another’s loss. Its essence is guided by the principle of continuously seeking mutual benefits and treating interactions with others as opportunities for cooperation.

The “win-win” solution allows all parties involved to feel satisfied with the decision made and committed to its implementation. The “win-win” strategy is a belief in a third alternative.

Practical Tip:

Choose a relationship in which you would like to apply the “win-win” agreement. Put yourself in your partner’s position and precisely determine which solution they would choose.

Then, make a list of outcomes that would be a win for you. Ask your partner if they would agree to talk with you until you find a solution that is beneficial for both parties.

5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood

This principle is key to effective communication with others. We often have a tendency to give advice, propose our own way of doing things, which instead of facilitating relationships, deepens frustration and a sense of loneliness. For two people to truly meet and cooperate in trust, patience and a willingness to understand each other are needed. To develop this habit, one must learn empathic listening, focus on the intentions and emotions of the other person.

Practical Tip:

Ask your close and distant friends for feedback on how good of a listener you are. Inquire about when they feel listened to by you.

6. Synergy

Synergy is the ability to creatively collaborate (1) and together create something that has not existed before. According to Covey, properly understood synergy is the highest form of life activity – a test and true manifestation of all the above habits at the same time.

Practical Tip:

Think about a person who usually sees things differently than you. Consider how you could use these differences as steps to find a third solution. Maybe you could find out their perspective on a particular matter or problem and appreciate the differences you are likely to discover?

7. Sharpen the Saw

This habit aims to take care of ourselves and focus on renewing the four dimensions of our nature: physical – exercise, nutrition, stress management; socio-emotional – empathy, synergy, a sense of security; spiritual – values, study, and meditation; and mental – reading, visualization, planning, and writing. By taking care of ourselves, we can create new habits in our lives and act effectively.

2. Less is More

“Tiny Habits” is a learning program developed by B.J. Fogg, a behavior change specialist. In creating this method, Fogg assumed that it is easier to adopt new habits if they are small. The idea is to engage in actions that will take no more than 30 seconds. Why so little? The simpler the behavior, the easier it is to mobilize. Most of us will struggle to motivate ourselves for a daily half-hour fitness routine, but we will find the willingness for a 30-second workout. This essentially eliminates the motivation problem.

Surprisingly, you don’t need to set a fixed time for the action. Instead, Fogg encourages associating the new behavior with an old, existing habit and performing it directly before or after it. Such an existing habit is called an “anchor,” to which we “attach” the new behavior. The new habit should be logically aligned with the existing one. Jumping rope always after lunch seems pointless, but flossing your teeth after brushing them is a perfect example. Associating a new habit with something you already do ensures consistency.

Practical Tips:

1. Create a list of simple habits you would like to implement. The habit should:
➔ Be performed at least once a day
➔ Take a maximum of 30 seconds
➔ Require minimal effort
2. Once you have a list of habits, choose a maximum of three and find an “anchor” for each.
3. Perform the new habit before or after the “anchor.” Implement it for at least 5 days before adding another.
4. Congratulate yourself after each execution of the habit.
5. Perhaps you want to adopt a new behavior but are unsure if you will stick with it? I encourage you to implement it for only 30 days. If after this time it turns out to be a wrong idea, abandon it. If you get used to the new habit, you won’t have trouble repeating it for a longer period.

If you’ve ever wondered how to develop a new habit and forget the old one, this article is for you.

I wish you good luck and I hope its contents have been a good help to you.

Przemkas Mosky
Przemkas Mosky started Perfect 24 Hours in 2017. He is a Personal Productivity Specialist, blogger and entrepreneur. He also works as a coach assisting people to increase their motivation, social skills or leadership abilities. Read more here