This challenge has been for health but also willpower. I "know" that I can do whatever I want, but often times, I will go for whatever is pleasurable in the moment. Eating too much pizza... Having too many drinks at the bar... It is easy to just say yes to the things that satisfy carnal desires. But how do I go about attaining the things in life that aren't easy or immediately pleasurable?
Well, I am still working this out. In my last post I briefly described one trick to help me bring change in my life, but I want to expound on that further.
I have read too many books about how to make new habits, or break old ones. Some have great tips and advice, others state the obvious but don't go much further. And some other books like "The Secret" can fill you will this seemingly innocuous feeling of "I can do anything," but fail to demonstrate how to achieve what you want past simply wishing for it.
My 4 Step Process for Change
Step 1: Focus on the negatives of what you want to change in an extreme fashion
This part is huge for me. Back in my college days, I partied a bit more than I should have and noticed it started to play too big of a role in my life. It wasn't until I began really focusing on the negative aspects of partying that I began to move away from it. But not just by casually thinking about it, I would take it to the farthest extremes I could and really visualize it.
Take drinking for example. Regardless of how much or how often you drink, if you want to quit, start visualizing the worst aspects of drinking and picture yourself next to it. Do this every time you think about buying a drink, and even if you do succumb to buying more alcohol, keep up these thoughts and visualizations as vividly as you can! It might take a few days, or a couple weeks, but if you keep it up, eventually the idea of buying more alcohol becomes quite depressing (at least it does for me).
Step 2: Change something else unrelated in your life
Re-arrange or redecorate your room. If that's not possible, try cleaning up your house/apartment if it is messy. Do something to interfere with your daily routine to break you from your norm. This works great for me to help start creating a new daily pattern to live by.
Step 3: Don't think, just do
This part is the hardest and requires a bit of willpower to achieve. In the cold shower challenge example, you have the advantage of your brain not being fully awake in the morning, so it is a little easier to keep your brain "off." But you likely will still be confronted by your mind telling you to screw the challenge and just take a nice hot shower. Don't hesitate, don't give your brain the chance to think about it. As quickly as possible, just keep following through without stopping or giving yourself the chance to quit.
This isn't easy, and without having someone there to help you, it will be doubly hard. But remember the negatives of the habit you are trying to break, keep your brain "off," and just do it.
If you are still having troubles following through, trivialize the difficulty of what it is you are trying to do. Eg "it's just cold water, what's the big deal? Is it really that crazy difficult to let cold water hit my skin? When I was a kid this was nothing."
Step 4: This isn't a one time cure-all, it requires effort and persistence
Probably my biggest problem when it comes to changing some aspect of myself is the ability to make that change permanent! After a few weeks of making a new habit, if I don't keep up with the steps above (remembering the negatives of bad habits, and not letting my brain think about the pleasures) it is too damn easy to fall back into these old routines. I often find myself allowing one "cheat-day" then next thing you know I am back where I was. And with all of the distractions in life, it is easy to forget about how you were in the process of becoming a better person.
So far, I've found it just takes persistence and repeating these steps above if I fail. If anyone has better techniques for making new habits stick in the long-term, I would be very happy to read it! Personally, my hardest habit to break is changing my diet... I love cheese so damn much, but my body does not... And soy cheese is disgusting =(
But I won't give up, I'll keep trying until it sticks!