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changing habits

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… from our top ten tips podcast… covering a wide range of management and personal development topics… new episodes weekly.
  1. recognise that habits are really difficult to change

    Fold your arms.  Now fold them the other way.  How was that?  Difficult? Uncomfortable? Now fold them whichever way you want. Did you return to your ‘norm’ – your habit? There isn’t a correct way – but there is a usual way, and once it has become embedded, comfortable, automatic – then it will be really, really difficult to change…

  2. recognise that most habits help

    By and large, habits are life savers. If we didn’t have habits, then we’d literally have to think of almost everything we do – and we’d be both exhausted and forgetful – which would make our survival, in evolutionary terms, extremely unlikely.

  3. habits are often unconscious

    A large number of the habits we have we are simply unaware of. Think of the time you spend most days, from getting up to leaving the house. Just how many things do you do that you do repetitively, predictably, every day – without consciously thinking about ‘doing’ it.  Do you put your socks on in the same order, each day? How about washing and teeth cleaning? Eating and drinking (and tidying up…!)….the main point here, of course is this: if you have an unhelpful habit – and you don’t consciously know about it, are not aware of it – then it is doubly difficult to change…once, because as a habit, it will be difficult, and twice, because you don’t know about it, it will be difficult!

  4. replace, rather than stop, a habit

    Nature abhors a vacuum. It is just difficult to STOP… and do nothing. We are therefore almost certain to find just STOPPING…very difficult. It is much easier to replace.  So if you want to stop a habit, you are almost certain to be more successful if you replace the bad habit with something else. Just stopping eating won’t work: replacing what you eat with a better eating alternative will have a much better chance of success…

  5. ensure there is always a good reason for change

    Remember, most habits are helpful. So before changing a so-called bad habit, check to see if it provides some unexpected or unplanned for benefit. I know for example that one of the benefits of my clumsiness was that it sharpened my reflexes: if I knocked something over, I’d almost always catch it before it hit the ground…

  6. replacement

    As mentioned earlier, replacing a habit is more likely to be successful than just stopping it. So for each habit you want to stop or change, find a substitute to replace it with…

  7. repetition

    In the beginning, there is no habit. Just occasional behaviours. Then, if the behaviour works, we do it again, and again, so that it becomes (at that stage) a routine – probably still a conscious decision. Then, after more repetition, it becomes less consciously thought of, and passes into a habit:

    • behaviour
    • routine
    • habit
  8. reinforce: acknowledge progress

    This is for yourself, or anyone you’re helping change habits. Because it’s hard, and likely to take time, then take every opportunity to acknowledge and reward progress, no matter how small….

  9. what works, works

    Ways of changing habits are many and varied. Think of the arm folding example. Suppose you HAD to or WANTED to change the way you fold your arms – what approach or strategy would you take? Remember that what works best for you is the one you should use – and that the strategy that works for you may not work for someone else. Find out what works for you, and stick to it…

  10. do you control your habits, or do they control you?

    As I think is clear by now, your life is pretty much dominated by habits. So there’s a key question here: do they control you – or do you control them? Who, or what, is in charge?

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Live Poll - Mitsubishi - 06/21 - Lift Off


We know it’s a faff
And a bit of a pain;
But it really helps us
Stay on top of our game…

We know it’s a faff
And a bit of a pain;
But it really helps us
Stay on top of our game…