What affects virtually every aspect of your life and determines how your life operates? Habits! Studies have shown that 90% of our normal behavior is based on habits. Habits are pervasive – they affect nearly every area of our lives: work, family, our income, our health and even our relationships.
Since a habit is something that you do without thinking, then how do you make yourself (or someone else) think about a habit in order to change it? Therein lays the conundrum. When you examine the definition of the word ‘change,’ all sources refer to making or doing something distinctly different. In order to do this, conscious thinking is required.
I believe there are three basic steps in the process of changing habits:
1. Awareness – This step may seem obvious. You need to be aware of the habit that you need or want to break. But if a habit is something that you do without thinking, how do you make yourself or someone else become aware of the habit? Let’s assume that your customer continues to give business to your competitor–and that’s the habit you want to break. There are two possible scenarios that may occur:
- The customer may actually admit that he/she is giving business to your competitor without really thinking about it–it has become a habit. In this case you’ve already overcome the first hurdle.
- You need to introduce the concept of habit as entering into the decision process when deciding to use your (or your competitor’s) products. You need to inquire if habit is a factor in selecting what product to use. If you use safe environment words, it’s likely that you can get your customer to agree.
2. Commitment – You need to get commitment for the necessary actions required to break the habit. In the case of trying to change your customer’s habit, ask for permission to help remind that person about the new habit they want to form. Once you have received permission, use creative ways to make your message different. Think of original and creative ways that can tie in to your product and serve as a trigger. Let’s take the example of safety. You can remind your customer by providing information about safety that will capture interest…and will be something different than an everyday occurrence that will help your customer remember the habit they want to change. Here are some examples:
- Bring in information about travel safety from the AAA.com website
- Bring in a list of safety equipment every car should have
- Bring in a whistle. Numerous people who have been stranded in the wilderness can attest as to how this whistle helped saved their lives.
3. Action – This is probably the hardest step. For an individual who is motivated to change a habit, the best way is to use self-talk and visualization. Many authors such as Zig Ziglar and Napoleon Hill have written a lot about identifying what you want to change, and reviewing the list 2-3 or more times a day. Both Zig Ziglar and Dale Carnegie mention the process of doing something numerous times before it becomes ingrained. Even though many experts cite the number ‘21’ as the number of days it takes to break a habit, the time period of 21 days is just a guideline. It can be very different than reality. The trick is that these changes should be spaced over time…any memory change is best layered over time than done all at once.
Habits, both good and bad, require repetition and time. When you think about it, you wouldn’t want habits to be any other way. Imagine how difficult life would be without them! You’d have to stop and think about each small minute activity that you do. The good news is that you can consciously choose to develop new habits…all it takes is repetition and time. Think of the possibilities!