What is discipline? In my simple definition it would doing the same activity regularly again and again in an orderly and systematic manner. How is it different from a habit? Basically they are the same when seen through the prism of getting things done. For a habit one needs:
- A cue
- A routine
- A reward
The above definitions were provided by Charles Duhigg in his path breaking book – The Power of Habit. This anatomy of a habit provides many insight to the ‘why’ we do certain things in life.
Recently I finished reading a book called Atomic Habits. This books takes over from where Duhigg stopped and expands the universe of habits. It is a well written and thoroughly researched book providing deep insights into habit formation, sustainment and even elimination techniques for bad habits.
I’ve had my share of bad habits for a greater part of my life. I have been able to eliminate a good amount of them. However just like weeds grow next to a beautiful flower – some other bad habit always seem to take their place as we grow older. Some of the lessons I learnt while eliminating bad habits are:
- Mapping them out
- Remove them and replace with something else
- Slow and steady progress
- Allow the soaking time
- Eliminate them completely
Identification: This is the most important step – identifying that you have a bad habit. This is not easy because once the system gets used to something, it will find a million excuse not to let go of that bad habit. Once you are ready to move forward with elimination of the bad habit, do not look back and try to have a strong bone while doing so.
Mapping them out: It is important to map out a bad habit in the format shown by Duhigg – first identify the cue i.e., the trigger which forces you to commence the bad habit. Identification of the routine would be next – this is the easiest part of the activity. The final step would be the reward. Once this is identified, it becomes easier to proceed to the next step.
Remove them and replace with something else: The reward is the fruit of the bad habit one which enthrals or excites. If this is clearly understood, try the following:
- Can I obtain the same outcome by a different and better habit?
- Can I have a better outcome with a different and better habit?
Answering these questions can be helpful with the activity of eliminating the bad habit.
Slow and steady progress: Rome was not built in a day, so try to take it slow and no burden yourself or be hard on yourself, should progress falter. In due course and with focus, you could be on your path of elimination provided you are steady and undeterred by any setbacks.
Allow some soaking time: If you are replacing a bad habit with a better/ different habit, allow for some soaking time. During this time there will be a period where both habits may interlace. This is normal. As time goes on you will realize how the better habit decimates and overlap the weaker bad habit. This soaking time hence would be crucial.
Eliminate the bad habit completely: With time you will realize the slow degradation and demise of the bad habit. Most of the time it would leave the scene without a whimper and you will never realize that you actually did have a bad habit. They say time is the greatest healer – it is also the greatest nullifier. There is nothing that cannot be eliminated with willpower and patience. The latter is most important.
The above steps provide a disciplined approach at eliminating/ getting rid of bad habits. Being orderly and systematic, one can expect to achieve greater results.Photo by Prophsee Journals on Unsplash