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How to Acquire New Habits and Discard the Old Ones

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how to acquire new habits and discard the old

The new year has begun and it is time to take stock, to see everything that serves us, to clean up and to discard what no longer serves us. We might have created some resolutions or have made plans. Let’s see what it takes to materialize those plans or resolutions.

The importance of creating new habits

If you want to achieve your goals and objectives, and achieve success in what you do, it is essential to do what is necessary and uncomfortable. Incorporating new habits in our lives, allows us to create new neural circuits, and thus we will be creating new patterns of thought, we will gradually stop acting as we have been doing until now, that is, automatic and from memory.

To do this, you must add new and good habits to your life. The good habits are like a path that will lead to success, the habits lead you to your destination. The positive habits produce positive results.

According to the theory of Dr Maxwell Maltz author of the book “Psycho-Cybernetics”, published in 1960, only 21 days are required to create a new habit. His study was based on his professional practices as a plastic surgeon. He observed that his patients took 21 days to overcome false sensations about their physical condition, specifically in people who had suffered an amputation.

If you want to create a habit it is important to be constant, it is important that you do it every day.

During the first days you will find it very difficult and you will want to return to your old habits, your subconscious will rebel and tell you why you are doing that, but the key is to focus on the benefit you will get when performing that new habit.

The key to creating positive habits is thinking about the benefits and being constant.  Only then will you be able to install a solid and lasting habit in yourself. You have to be disciplined. Decide to do the things you should do, instead of doing those things that require the least effort.

“We can all be prepared for a change but not everyone is able to change.

The way you develop that habit will determine your success. ”

How to remove a bad habit or replace it with a good one

Bad habits start by accident. For example, some day you got bored and decided to zap on TV and as it was a rewarding experience, you decided to look at it again the next day.

Now a few years have passed and you spend each day watching TV for a while, even though you realize it’s a waste of time. Why?

The habits are developed in 3 parts:

1. Trigger

It is the stimulus that causes your habit. If for example, you usually bite your nails in stressful situations, the trigger is your emotional state of tension.

2. Answer

The answer is the reaction provoked in you by the stimulus, the thoughts and actions that make you carry out the habit proper. Following the example, this is the moment you put your finger in your mouth to bite your nails.

3. Reward

The reward is the pleasure and immediate satisfaction that your response produces. The reward of biting your nails is the decrease of your anxiety.

Here is the trap of bad habits: the pleasurable effect of the reward is short and the next time you encounter the initial stimulus it is easy for you to want to repeat the process again.

How to eliminate a bad habit

The first step to changing a habit is to be aware that you have this habit and to recognize well the process that you follow from the trigger to the reward.

To end a habit, you must eliminate any of the 3 parts that create it:

1. Remove the trigger

If you eliminate the initial stimulus, the habit disappears. For example, if you want to give up the habit of eating chocolate, pastries and sweets, simply take out of your house all the goodies you have. If you do not have, you cannot eat and your bad habits will be replaced over time with healthier habits.

2. Delete the answer

Eliminating the response involves changing your reaction to the stimulus.

An effective way to change your response is to promise someone that you will not repeat your current behaviour anymore. Following the example of before, you can promise your partner, friends or co-workers that you will not eat sweets or junk food. Your answer will change because instead of thinking about eating you will think about the disappointment of the people around you when you see them eating sweets. To make it even more interesting you can promise that every time they see you eating junk food you will pay X amount or you will do X thing in return.

Another alternative is to remind you of the benefits of not repeating your habit and the negative consequences of following the habit every time you encounter the stimulus. Every time you see a candy, remember how you will lose weight and gain health if you do not eat it and how you will get fat and your health will get worse if you eat.

3. Eliminate the reward

To eliminate the reward, you must avoid that your habits are pleasurable. For example, you can: Eat bitter chocolate, put salt in cookies to make them unpleasant or drink beer without alcohol.

Here is a seven-step guide to creating new habits.

It is recommended that you take a paper and a pen and create a detailed action plan. Otherwise, the whole exercise would become useless knowledge.

Step 1: Prepare

Make a list.

Habits that you want to change (For example: stop getting up late on Sundays and go playing cricket, stop smoking and instead practice meditation or yoga) It is important that you incorporate a “good habit” for every “bad habit” you want to eradicate from your life.

Habits you want to acquire.  (For example: spend more time playing with my son, playing sports)

First of all, it is necessary that you identify the habits you want to acquire, and from there what your goals are. To do so, try to be as specific as possible and describe the habits you wish to acquire in specific goals.

Step 2: Encourage self-confidence

The best version of yourself.

Many times our biggest impediment is the lack of self – confidence at the time of starting.

Past failures, negative things that we have heard from others or that we tell ourselves, the labels and excuses that we put on ourselves: “I am too lazy”, “I do not have time”, ” this is not for me “,” I do not have willpower ” etc.

Talk to your future self

Visualize yourself in the near future, for example within a couple of years, in which you have achieved to create the habits that you now want to incorporate into your day to day, try to visualize with great detail and answer the following notebook questions:

– How is your future self that has managed to acquire new habits?

– What goals have you achieved and what are you working for?

– What habits of life does my future self-have?

– What do you do daily?

– How do you see yourself?

– How do others see you?

– How do you feel?

– How have you managed to reach your goals, what was the process and the difficulties you overcome?

– What advice would your future self-give you to get to where you want to get?

Try to be as detailed as possible and write everything down. Now create an image of your future self and relate it with someone else’s image or a thing. It will serve as a connector. Use that connector to constantly remind you of your future self.

Step 3: Find the bits of your goals

“Nothing is too difficult if it is divided into small tasks.” (Henry Ford)

The atom is the smallest unit of matter that has the properties of a chemical element. In this step, you have to find the bits of your goals.

In order to carry out this division, you have to take into account: if they are habits that you wish to eliminate from your life, you must identify the specific “trigger stimuli” associated with that behaviour and specify what different thing you will do when that stimulus is presented. For example, “When I feel the urge to smoke, I will eat chewing gum today.”

Step 4: Designing our new pattern

So to begin with that small part you start building a new pattern of habit.

For example:

Hobby: Running

Small action: “I will go running after reaching home from the office for five minutes or to the nearest coffee shop.”

Stimuli: I will put the sportswear on the bed to see it when I arrive. I can also put an alarm on my mobile with a reminder “go for a run”.


I will look into the mirror and tell myself “good work” and then I will eat chocolate.

Step 5: Repetition, repetition, and repetition

So, what it takes to keep going continuously?


Following are the steps that you should follow:

  • Every day connect with our best future self-using the connector.
  • Monitor yourself: record your progress and failures.
  • Continuous evaluation: The weekly review and planning for the following week.
  • Surround yourself with people who have already established the habit you want to acquire.

Step 6: Move forward little by little

“To climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first.” – Shakespeare

It is not about taking big steps, but small steps with constancy. Following are a few tips related to this.

Do not put deadlines for medium-term goals – Focus on going over your marks day by day, not on the final goal.

Do not set many goals in many areas of your life – Start with one and when you go forward or have already created a habit, go for another.

Step 7: Keep going despite setbacks

It is said that ‘Courageous are not those who do not fear but those who keep going despite fear’.

I have similar advice for you when you experience any setbacks or breakdowns. When you make a mistake, do not go into guilt mode but acknowledge that you have made a mistake and do anything to set it right or get back on track. And, do not forget to take the lessons from your mistake or failure and apply them to your future actions.

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