New skills or habits don’t always embed into our routines easily. In fact, making the new habit routine can feel downright clunky and awkward.
Information from neuroscience about the working behind habits explains why this is so. Essentially, well established (old) habits are like well worn, fast track highways in our brains. We are on them and home again without noticing how we got there.
Setting up and maintaining new habits, on the other hand, is a bit like bush-bashing a new track through thick scrub. The smooth highway is way easier and more appealing to travel on, compared to the hard work of the track. Stick with it though and the track will become easier, and more familiar.
What can we do in the meantime, when the track, or new habit, is still a little bumpy and unfamiliar?
- Recruit support – it’s easier and more fun walking the track with others.
- Practise often – the more times the better – try and give your new habit a workout as often as you can.
- Notice and celebrate successes – keeping a written record of all the times you do walk the track, even if it’s for a short while.
- Watch out for perfectionist thinking – which can knock motivation (Unless I do it perfectly, there’s no point in trying) and discourage us when we have small successes (If it’s not perfect, then it’s a failure). Alternatives to perfectionist thinking are:
- I’m doing the best that I can.
- Some change/improvement is better than none.
- It’s OK to have a go.
- I can do better next time.