The Top Mistakes That People Make When Changing Habits

26.06.2017 |

Episode #9 of the course How to change any habit by John Fawkes


Welcome to Lesson 9! You’re almost done with the course, and at this point, you’ve learned every tactic and technique you need to know. Now it’s just a matter of execution.

Today is about troubleshooting. Here are the most common mistakes people make when they’re working to build better habits.


Trying to Do Too Many Things at Once

As the saying goes, a person who has many priorities has none at all. That’s why you’re only building two new habits right now—focus. It’s also one reason it’s so important to find ways you can make a one-time action that produces lasting benefits, such as changing your environment.


Over-Reliance on Willpower

As you’ve seen, willpower can only carry you so far. Many people never learn that lesson. Instead of finding ways to avoid relying on willpower, they convince themselves that they just need to try harder, leading to an endless cycle of over-exertion and failure.


Not Tracking Compliance Early On

Almost everybody thinks that they eat fewer calories, get more exercise, work longer hours, and spend less time watching TV than they actually do. If you don’t track what you’re doing, you will always, always think you’re doing better than you actually are.

Particularly when you’re working on something new, it’s crucial to track your performance for at least the first month—that’s why you’re keeping a log of your two new habits.


Misidentifying the Habit Loop

There are a few variations on this mistake. Some people think the cue is the first thing they do as part of the habit. That’s actually the routine; the cue is something that happens before you do the habit.

Other times, people lump the routine and reward together and think they’re both part of the routine. Remember, the reward happens at the end and you enjoy it. The routine happens after the cue and before the fun part.


People Around You Actively Hold You Back

This is one of the toughest problems people face and is often one they don’t want to admit to. But I’ve seen over the years that many people’s attempts to change their habits are held back by the people around them.

Usually, this pressure to not change comes from friends, family, coworkers, and other long-time associates. But sometimes, the culprit can be the very people who are supposed to be helping you—an accountability partner who tries to talk you out of changing your habits or a self-improvement group where members are discouraged from making faster progress than everyone else.

The best way to avoid this problem is to not tell people that you’re working to change your habits until you’re already done. If you can’t shake the people holding you back, you may need to cut them out of your life.


Identifying “Habits” That Aren’t Really Habits

Remember what a habit is: a behavior in which you consistently engage in response to a particular cue. It’s not something you do once. It’s also not something you occasionally do but have to plan for and be deliberate about—habits are automatic.

If you always change clothes when you get home from work, that’s a habit. If you only change clothes as soon as you get home because you have another event to go to, that’s not a habit.


Exercise: Performance Review

Look over the log you’ve been keeping and think about how things are going so far. Have you been making any of the mistakes in this lesson?


Recommended book

Hack Your Habits: 9 Steps to Finally Break Bad Habits and Start Thriving by Joanna Jast


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