How do I change a habit?

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Allow me to answer a submitted question to help answer this question and how to overcome it. 

Podcast version: HERE

Submitted Question:

"I've created this habit much of the last several years of staying up until 2am. I usually get energy just after midnight, and I want to organize to-dos on my phone and do Amazon shopping. I know this isn't great for my circadian rhythm, overall health, or my budget, but I find it hard to make this big change. Maybe this is a form of avoiding or sabotaging? Doing those same things in the morning doesn't seem as enjoyable, and I also like to write and decompress thoughts from the day as well. I'd like to be able to get in the habit of being able to wake up at 7am without an alarm. Where do I start?"

My Response if we were in a coaching setting. Although without being able to ask questions I may assume or use scenarios to fill in the gaps.

This is a tough spot to be in, I get the sense you're stuck, not fully clear on what the benefits would be in your own life to create a new habit, so I will assume a bit and hope to offer a place to start. 

What is a habit? 

GOOGLE: a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

Once you identify a habit you want to break, this submission focuses on creating a new bedtime routine. It's becoming intentional and mindfully repeating your desired behavior by shifting your thoughts.

You see, we are thinking>feeling beings. We think, then feel, then take action 1,000's of times a day. We are in a thought-created reality. 

If you want to create a different behavior or habit, it's shifting the thoughts around the topic; sleep in this case, generating a feeling that sends you into action to complete the desired outcome or action. Sort of hacking our mental framework or blueprint.

Just like the process of establishing the old habit, there are thoughts holding it into place. I am assuming here, that shopping, decompressing your thoughts, organizing, working on your to-dos is a lot of fun and enjoyable (likely a lot more feeling words would surface if I asked in a session). More so than sleep, it's likely sleep is thought of as maybe dull, lame, not any fun or exciting. We, humans, love to justify and make sense of why we do what we do. 

Our brain and our thoughts will pull us towards what feels good and familiar. So if it feels good to stay up, and it's familiar because it's been something that's been done before and offered a good feeling, it is undoubtedly going to ignite more thoughts to justify and promote staying up. 

The strongest emotion will always win.

Logic and knowing that sleep is good for you, and this current habit isn't great for your circadian rhythm, isn't a strong enough emotion to shift you into action. 

If you genuinely deeply want to become a "morning person" it will take some deep thought on what that means for you personally—connecting with, thinking like, identifying as, and becoming in alignment with a person that is a "morning person". How they think and feel. 

Similarly for someone that wants to run a marathon. Suppose they logically know in order to run a marathon. In that case, it requires them to train, practice, and build up the strength, stamina, and endurance and get their body and mind in condition well in advance if they think and believe sitting on the couch binge watching tv is more exciting, fun, alluring and enjoyable, will they take action? Nope!

Athletes more and more are not only hiring trainers to help them get into physical shape they are hiring life coaches to help them with their mindset. 

So I am interested in further knowing what thoughts fuel your current behaviors—digging deep. And there's no need to label the behavior or understand why it's happening, wanting, or demanding to know this often keeps people stuck in the same pattern. Labels create this sense of being, it limits us and our brain seeks proof to validate that we are that label.

I like to understand all the thoughts and feelings in your current state, because we all have our own perspectives, realities and what we value. 

Then it's flipping the switch, HOW DO YOU WANT TO FEEL? (list out ten strong, powerful words, emotions, and feeling words to describe it) On the topic of becoming someone that prioritizes their nighttime ritual and developing a habit of prioritizing high-quality sleep and waking up at a specific time each day. 

I could list off 12 steps to a better night's sleep and there are millions of pages, blogs, YouTube on the logical process, but what I know and understand is that if you're not addressing the root of what sets you into action, the logical steps won't stick. 

Once you've clarified your ten strong, powerful emotional statements or words, the answers to WHAT to do, and WHERE to start will become clear. What's interesting is as a coach, new clients often think I will just tell them what to do. You have the answers already within you. It's covered up by a lot of thinking and justifications keeping you doing the same old thing. 

When starting on a new journey of changing a habit, it will take time, patience, practice, missteps, reflection, readjustment, and a lot of grace, self-compassion, support, and encouragement. This is where a coach is incredibly valuable. Someone to help along the way, a thinking partner (like me). 

Let's quickly think of some words or powerful positive statements that may be possible: strong, capable, rested, persistent, determined, proud, calm, relaxed, productive, self-compassion, health-focused, caring, worthy...

These words that I came up with were from my heart and soul if I were to be the one wanting to change my sleep schedule. These have unique meanings to me. However, the WHAT and HOW to take action are in these words' meanings and implications. Whatever words or statements you come up with may differ along with what they mean to you. 

Take determined. This, to me, would set me on fire, this is a strong word in my reality, and it means that I would face this challenge with determination and grit. I would start TODAY and give it my all. What's interesting that I see in coaching over the years is people are waiting, thinking, overthinking, contemplating too much, just starting, even if it's small. Take small action now.

You see, when we come from the energy of ease, flow, determination, calm, compassion, and empathy towards ourselves, there's a gentler, kinder approach to the change you desire vs coming from frustration, and why is this happening? This is why needing to know why limits us, and keeps us stuck in analyzing, comparing, and having a negative mindset towards change. 

Hope this helps. Please share this with anyone you believe would benefit from the insights. Post a comment, I read and reply to them all. Thank you in advance!

If you want to send a question, please send to please include: 

  • A coachable question (something that addresses what's in your control, your thoughts, feelings or actions.)
  • And context, explain a situation in the past, currently going through, or worries/concerns of the future, giving me some details on your thoughts and feelings about it. 

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