Developing those habits

How are you coming
with your new habits?
Did you take my advice to take advantage of
the context change of September?

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
from the Habits, Decision, Attention Series

Autumn Attempts tend to stick

In my last Habits article I talked about taking advantage of context change to jump start the habit-change and habit-building process.

I also disclosed that September is one of the best times to begin the year anew.

Since most of us have 12 to 18 years of school-starts in our background, we are primed for change and growth as the leaves begin to turn.

By understanding the process of habit formation, it is possible to develop systems in your life BEFORE you reach the point where you flake out on yourself, jettison the attempt to build a new habit or three, and conclude that nothing you try will ever work for you.

  • I hope you took the time to answer the questions at the end of the prior post (repeated below for those of you who did not) because that information will be helpful as we move forward.
  • If you follow along as the Series continues to develop — and actually DO the exercises suggested — by next September you just might have a brand new life.

October is not too late!

It’s still fall, and the crisp weather will still promote the ease of change if you start now — before winter arrives, signaling your brain that you blew it again, making change more difficult than it needs to be.

Since science now believes they know why habits develop, how they change, and how to build and rebuild them to our exact specifications, we can use that information to change just about anything we want.

We can, that is, as long as we understand what they know about how it all works — how patterns and pattern-recognition impact the the human brain.

If we work WITH our brain instead of against it, it is possible for any one of us to transform our entire lives through the power of brain-based habit formation.

  • What might be possible in YOUR life if you understood the neurology as well as the psychology of habits and the way patterns work within our lives, businesses, and social groups?
  • What if you understood how to apply the brain-based information you’ve read here on (to counter some of the old-school, out of date, “standard” advice about motivation and habit formation that’s been around for decades) — so that you could tweak the information that dominates the info-market to make it all work for YOU?

Take a moment to really think about it:

What might your life look like one short year from now if you actually applied what you learned here, step by step?

  • Would you be healthier?  Wealthier?  Happier with your marriage and family life?
  • Would you finally find the time to write that novel, or start that new business, or to take the necessary steps to move into that lakeside house you’ve always dreamed about?
  • What WOULD you do, tweaking the old expression slightly, if you understood how to set it up so that you could not fail?

Remember that you can always check out the sidebar
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HOVER before clicking – often a box will appear to tell you what to expect

Gettin’ busy with the HABIT habit

Let’s define our terms again:

Have any bad habits?

For purposes of this article, let’s define a “bad habit” as any habit that does NOT take you in the direction you want to travel.

Pick one – any one – and play along. It is actually easier to understand habit formation when we focus on the ones we wish we didn’t have first!

For anything we do repeatedly, something always acts as a trigger that leads to our next action — which leads us right into the habit we’re trying to jettison, whether we realize it consciously or not.  The habit gurus refer to that trigger as a CUE.

For Example:
Possible cues for some bad habits that make it tough to lose those last ten pounds or so for that High School reunion coming up in only ten weeks:

  • When you step into a movie theatre, does the smell of the popcorn cue your hankering – and while you are at the counter do you find you can’t resist ordering a large Coke and a box of Milk Duds, and maybe one of those movie-sized Snickers?  Can you even watch a movie without popcorn?
  • Has getting off work become a cue for stopping off at the local hang for a chance to unwind with a bit of social time over a couple of cold ones? Does popping open a brewski also serve as a cue for ordering some fries, chips, or other greasy goodies?
  • Do you “taste” your way through half a meal’s worth of calories while you’re cooking and then sit down to a full dinner with your family?
  • When the kids leave half a pork chop or part of a sandwich, is that your cue for mindlessly finishing it yourself, maybe because you tell yourself you hate to see food wasted?

How many times have you repeated an action like any of those above — something you swore to yourself you’d change, but somehow it remains to haunt you?

Don’t split hairs here!  None of those habits may speak to you, and losing a few pounds may not be on your list of goals, but the underlying principles and techniques remain the same.

If you want to change a habit you have TWO choices:

    1. Get RID of the cue, or
    2. LINK the cue to a different action.

Changing what you DO

Using the example above, if you are absolutely serious about looking great at your next reunion, the simplest way to keep from activating your bad habits is to stay away from your cues entirely until the pounds are gone and the reunion is over.

No movies, working overtime so you have to hurry home and don’t have time to stop at your hang-out with the rest of the gang, getting someone else to cook and clean up — those are a few ways to get rid of the excess calorie cues above.

For most of us, however, that isn’t the most realistic way to handle things – even impossible in some cases. Nor is it the most effective way. Assuming you could remove those cues until the reunion is over, what happens afterwards?

Yep, you put those pounds right back on.

So let’s move on to choice number two: linking the cue to a new action.

UNLEARNING and Relearning

The latest research indicates that habits are ingrained in a part of the brain called the basil ganglia, so effectively they might as well be hard-wired. We keep acting in accordance with them even when they are in direct opposition to what we say we want.

Apparently, unlinking – extinguishing a habitual response – is a process our brain resists mightily.  Once we have trained our brains to respond to a cue, it happens automatically, meaning below the level of conscious awareness.

  • When we encounter one of our habit cues, we respond as readily as Pavlov’s dogs salivate at the ringing of that bell that cued the food reward.
  • Unless, that is, we link something else to the cue – and, most importantly – repeat it often enough that it becomes a HABIT.
  • When we actively and repeatedly follow an old cue with a new action we create a new habit.

Over time, our brain creates new neurological pathways that allow us to more easily use the new response again because it requires less energy than recalling the old – eventually.

Related Post: Putting things on Autopilot gets more DONE

Bottom Line: the most effective way to change your habits is to REPLACE them with new ones.  Just don’t expect it to be easy and don’t expect it to happen overnight.

Questions for Notebook Noodling:

Review and catch-up

  1. What bad habits would you like to DE-activate this year? 
  2. What new habits would you like to put in place?
  3. RATE each of them!
    How confident are you, on a scale of 1-10, that you will be able to change what’s going on NOW?
  4. Revisit your first instinct
    What would it take to improve your projection by one measly point? How about two points? Take the question seriously, and be specific. Really! What would it take?

And two MORE for today’s post:

  • Identify your Cues
    Make a short list of your most “troubling” habits and take a stab at identifying the cues
  • Identify what you want INSTEAD
    For each item on your list, instead of focusing on what you DO, write a sentence or two of what you want to do, stated as if it were already your new habit.
    – I handle the laundry so it never becomes a mountain.
    – I get in bed early enough to get 8 hours of sleep almost every night.
    – I eat for health and take the time to prepare nutritious meals that entice me.

Coming Soon

In the next article we’ll tackle some ways to link new actions to your existing cues that will, step by step, take you in the direction of what you want instead.

and take some time to tackle those questions I just asked.

You can’t expect to get the benefit if you don’t do the work — and the best way to work with yourself is on PAPER.  Trust me on that one.

And get in touch if you’d like some one-on-one professional help with sherlocking trouble spots and setting up systems, along with some accountability support during the time you are making things a habit. I still have a few openings in my coaching schedule, and I’d LOVE to be your coach.

© 2017, all rights reserved
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(reblogs always okay, and much appreciated)

Shared on the Senior Salon

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IN ANY CASE, do stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this Series (one-on-one couples or group), click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end (or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page). Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

You might also be interested in some of the following articles
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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

114 Responses to Developing those habits

  1. Pingback: Habit Formation BASICS | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. lwbut says:

    Ohhh… i can tell i’m going to have to come back to this post ( and read the previous one) quite a few times in the coming months – I’m sure i can gain quite a lot from it.

    Just a little thing for now though… i read your warning about BlogLovin’ and followed the link. The lady has recanted after realising she may have ( did! 😉 ) over reacted a little. You might want to take your warning down and let readers know there was a teeny mistake?

    Always love reading your mind here M. 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow Madelyn. Once again you never cease to amaze us with your insight.

    Liked by 1 person


    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Developing those habits | WELCOME TO CRYSTAL'S SITE(ORIGINALLY COUNTRY LIVING)

  6. John Fioravanti says:

    Reblogged this on Words To Captivate ~ by John Fioravanti and commented:
    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie gifts us with a new article discussing the development of new habits. Please, read on…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Another excellent article! Rewiring a habit to a new trigger is always tricky, and I have found that positive reinforcements are very helpful. When it works, the results are great, no doubt.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. tmezpoetry says:

    Well I’m here to be the devils advocate … bad habit….smirk. But I might actually need try this just to keep sane with the laundry.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A most interesting post, Madelyn. I wonder if I am your only reader whose bad habit comprises of over committing and over doing it. Mind you, I think a lot of bloggers are workaholics so I am in good company. Problem is, I am not sure if I want to change my habits although there is a risk of burn out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • True – and good to get out in front of that possibility and head it off by habituating time OFF. You do that already with your baking, writing, etc. – and your family vacations. As long as you don’t exhaust yourself physically, get enough restorative sleep, etc. you’re probably in no danger, Robbie.

      Time “off” for people who prefer to be busy frequently means doing something ELSE, not sitting still and chanting – lol – tho’ that can help too, in people who can make themselves do it. “Quieting” the brain is good for us, so we’re told.

      Many folks like you do moving meditations (yoga, running, etc. – maybe making fondant art for you). Burn out generally happens in those who seldom take time “off” what they do for work (especially when that work is not truly their passion.)

      The helpful distinction is “underpromising and overdelivering” – the opposite is what gets us in trouble.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Tina Frisco says:

    Amazing, Madelyn. My next guest post on Chris’ blog is touching on the subject of habits. Great minds… 🙂 ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Christy B says:

    Eliminate the cue and go from there! Your advice is well taken by those whose ears want to hear it 🙂 Thank you too for linking to my habits post as I appreciate it greatly. Having connection to this blog is a big honor!!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. -Eugenia says:

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Madelyn. Sometimes it takes a while to recognize what we do is a bad habit. We set aside events that we feel are life’s little treats but they soon can become bad habits. I feel it’s a good idea to step back and reevaluate, then address what we consider bad habits.Great read!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Good ideas, Madelyn. TGIF hugs!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Excellent post, Madelyn. Needed the reminders and sharing… 🙂 xo

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Jodie says:

    Habits can be so good yet bad, and who doesn’t have a bad one (or two)??
    But it is in our control—of course that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. Right now my bad habit is being on the computer too much. But hopefully that will change when my hubby retires at the end of the month.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yeah! I’m trying to break that particular habit myself. 🙂 I deliberately stayed off the computer yesterday – but my mind didn’t – lol.

      Wonderful that both of you will be “retired” for Christmas (if you can call your blogging efforts “retirement”). 🙂 But holidays are a great context change, when you’re too busy with other things to keep up at the same pace. Good luck!


  16. I missed Septembers post but went back today and caught up. I shall get to work on my notebook…. Thank you Madelyn. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  17. About 20 years ago, I developed a habit of daily walking. It has served me so well, and if I have to miss a day, I don’t feel “right”. My favorite addiction.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. jenanita01 says:

    What you say does make a lot of sense… and I have a pile of de-activation to ponder on…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for spreading the word. I’m trying to set a few more time management and healthy eating habits in place before my focus turns to the end of year holidays,

      Waiting for New Year’s Resolutions doesn’t work very well at all – at least not for me! 😦 Or for many of the folks I’ve worked with over the last few decades either. Fall changes work best for most of us, it seems.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. my bad habit is that I’m a hardcore multi tasker… as I was young I was proud to do 87 things at the same time… like napoleon… but after the years there is only one waterloo after another ;o)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Waterloo – VERY funny!

      I think of supposed “multi-tasking” (“time-slicing” actually, according to the brain science) like juggling. It’s no fun to play with only one ball, but if we add too many more we tend to risk dropping them ALL (and eventually DO). 🙂 The trick is finding that line where we are challenged and interested, but no overwhelmed. It’s a moving line.


  20. Madelyn must say your post is so informative and inspiring for young children who start fresh year at school and what they need to do with their habits. Yes I agree with you when you said that habits can be bad if not taken control of them and simply beautiful and awesome write up. Great. Thanks for the encouragement share which you always do.

    Liked by 1 person

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