The habit myths that lead you to quit

June 6, 2020 by Joshua
in Habits

Over and over books and people advising how to bring habits to your life focus on the wrong place—the start. They talk about starting simple, looking for triggers, making it obvious, making it rewarding, and other things to start. While if you don’t start you can’t continue, plenty of people start. They don’t finish.

They’ve ingrained these ideas so much that even people who attend my seminars miss the important points of how to create habits so that you don’t stop them. The challenge isn’t starting, it’s not stopping.

An attendee wrote up the experience in the Herald Scotland (my first appearance I know if in a Scottish paper). First, I’ll write what she wrote, then my refinement with a link to the webinar. She wrote:

I had the privilege of taking part in a webinar with US-based TEDx speaker Joshua Spodek who says healthy daily habits create success. But most importantly of all, he acknowledges that the real challenge is getting started.

Let’s face it, most of us know what we SHOULD be doing or COULD be doing. But giving ourselves a kick and getting on with it is another challenge entirely.

So I love that Spodek takes the time to remind us habits are behavioural and guides us how to actually begin. He advises us to think of the emotions we want to feel and choose the habits that bring us those emotional rewards, making us more likely to stick to them.

It’s important to remember that aiming high doesn’t necessarily mean you need to take any giant leaps. Baby steps are perfect.

Often, when people think about their long term goals, they feel overwhelmed by what they want to achieve and this can put them off even trying.

Instead, focus on what’s achievable right now and, in the wise words of Nike, just do it. By simply beginning you’ve won half the battle.

I responded:

Hi, Joshua Spodek here. I’m honored and flattered you mentioned me and love hearing results like yours. I hope to learn more as your habits grow.

I propose refining a point I’ve found essential in my decades of practicing creating habits that endure in myself, my students, and my clients.

You wrote “he acknowledges that the real challenge is getting started.”

Many people focus on “just starting” or “starting with one little thing.” While you do have to start, the problem is that most people also drop their habits. The challenge is not stopping. I cover this problem and how to overcome it in my webinar on the slide starting at 46:30 when I suggest starting by thinking of your most discouraging day and thinking of what you can do that day.

Rather than suggesting starting small by an external measure, I suggest starting self-awareness of how you will feel when you are most likely to quit. (I recommend watching the whole webinar for a comprehensive approach.)

This perspective emerged from my research and practice. I’d never heard it before, but I’ve found it the difference between a) the vast majority of people, who believe they’re just can’t keep habits or that habits work for others but not them because they learned through experience that they always end up dropping habits, and b) those who change their lifestyles and lives permanently because they learned through experience that even at their most difficult times, they had something keeping them going that they built on that no one can take away from them that they can keep building for the rest of their lives.

I hope this distinction helps.

Watch the webinar and practice for the full experience. Here it is:

Habits Under Lock-down

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