Creatures of Habit

Effective advice for lasting habit change

When Should I Change? What Should I Change? Four Tips

When should I change myself? What should I change?

Let's face it, there are lots of things that you'd like to change about you. That's okay. That's the way it is for most folks . . . . . . which is weird because social psychology has been telling us for years that people are rather "up" on themselves. People think that they're people of good quality and that their future is bright. At the same time, though, people see room for improvement. In a sense, their optimism is based at least partly on an expectation that their circumstances will improve. That's certainly what my research has shown.

As you might expect, people's self-improvement to-do lists tend to contain the "usual suspects." People want to work harder and better, lose weight, eat better, and have better relations with their friends and family. Quite the tall order!

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A couple of questions arise. Is this a good time to change? If so, what should you change?

Here are a few tips for sorting things out:

1. Do you have enough will-power to try this right now? As I've written about elsewhere, will-power is a limited resource. If your life is topsy-turvy right now, don't start working on a new habit. Get your life in (more) order first.

2. Take some time to reflect on what really bugs you about you. Come up with a list of two or three things.

3. For each of the the things that bug-you-about-you, think of what you would need to change about yourself. What habit would you need to change?

4. Which of those habits would be easiest to change? That's the habit that you should change.

"But," you say, "shouldn't I work on the hardest one?" Well, you could of course, but I think it's better this way. For one thing, you're more likely to experience success. For another, your work on this habit will build your will-power muscle for the next habit. Think of it as weight-lifting. Do you start with the heaviest weights and move lighter over ensuing weeks? I think not.

For more writing by yours truly, visit me at My Bad Habits. I am also on Twitter.

Ian Newby-Clark is a psychologist at the University of Guelph who gives research-based advice for lasting habit change.

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