You want to make a change. Break a habit. You’ve tried before. You haven’t been successful. Your story? “I don’t have enough will-power, I’m not strong enough or courageous enough.” Then, you beat yourself up because you’ve ‘failed’. And then, feeling bad and inadequate, you probably do more of what you are trying not to do! Can you identify?

In his book Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life, Alan Deutschman explains there are 3 things that are consistently in place when people or organizations successfully make the changes they set out to make, especially when they are difficult changes. He found that even individuals for whom the change meant life or death didn’t make changes unless these 3 R’s were in place. I’ve added a fourth R, based on my own experience.

Here are the key elements required to change habits and change your life.

1. Remembering. So often, we’re so steeped in our habits and unconscious way of operating that we don’t even remember until it is too late to do things differently. We often have V-8 moments (picture the ad when the guy slaps himself on the forehead and says, “I could have had a V-8’) after we’ve done what we declared we weren’t going to do anymore (blow up at the kids, interrupt the colleague, eat that second helping). In order to successfully make changes in our behavior, we have to bring our intended new behavior into consciousness before we mindlessly use the old one.

2. Relationships. Deutschman found that the key to success in a program designed to help heart patients make life saving diet and lifestyle changes, was relationships. Eighty percent of patients who participated in support groups and/or had a “change buddy” while trying to make these radical changes, were successful during and after the program. Other studies found that people who had a mentor whom they admired and trusted and with whom they developed a relationship, were able to overcome challenges they had been dealing with for years.

3. Repetition. Habits are formed by repeating the same action over and over again. That repetition actually creates a ‘rut’ in our hippocampus (part of the brain). I liken it to a tire track on a soft dirt road. Each time we do that behavior, (drive over that road), the rut gets deeper. At some point, it gets so deep we can’t drive out of it. It, not you, steers the car. Habits work the same way. After a while, the habitual behavior, not your conscious thought, is running the show. That’s a good thing if the habit is a good one. But, what if it isn’t? In order to change a behavior, you have to create and practice a new, different and more effective one. To make that behavior second nature, you have to repeat it over and over again until you have created a new rut in your brain.

4. Reframing. Our perceptions inform our actions. If we believe that making the change we set out to make will create negative consequences, we won’t make it. For example, if we believe that changing our eating habits will cause us to feel deprived and dissatisfied, we won’t do it. If, we reframe our thinking and tell ourselves that adopting healthier eating habits will introduce us to different, equally enjoyable foods and result in our having more energy and being around longer to spend time with loved ones, we might try changing our patterns. By seeing that our new actions produce the hoped for result, we can change our perceptions and create a different reality.

So what’s a bracelet and a stone have to do with it? Well, before any change is possible, you have to REMEMBER that you want to do something differently and, until it becomes a habit, you have to CONSCIOUSLY think about what you are going to do or how you are going to be. A visual cue can help you make this shift; some physical symbol that reminds you of your to act on your intention. That’s where the bracelet and the stone come in. New Leaf Touchstone products are ‘charged’ by the user and then serve as a visual reminder of your intention to behave in a different way. It triggers you to take the new path rather than fall into the old rut. It reminds you to call a friend or colleague when you get stuck and need support. And, it helps you picture yourself being successful and draws you toward that winning vision.

Author's Bio: 

Cindy Loughran is a certified professional coach and the founder and president of New Leaf Touchstone. Her products and services help people break out of their habitual patterns and make desired changes in order to create fulfilling and satisfying lives. newleaftouchstone.com

Additional Resources covering Habits can be found at:

Website Directory for Habits
Articles on Habits
Products for Habits
Discussion Board
Cindy Loughran, the Official Guide to Habits