3 Reasons why your habit changes might not be working

It can be really frustrating if you are struggling to make changes. You see others around you changing habits all the time, making healthier choices and being able to stick with them, but somehow you just can’t do it. You may feel that you are just never going to be able to change. 

In this video and blog I wanted to share with you three reasons why your habit changes might not be working and give you some tips for turning this around.

I believe that we have room in our lives for different kinds of habit changes at different times. I like to think that we’ve got four ‘buckets’ of habits: imagine those big buckets that store water, and when each one gets full, they tip so the water pours down into the bucket below, and when that one is full, it tips into the one below that, and so on. Let’s call it a ‘bucket chain’.

Now, think about the bucket at the bottom represents all those default behaviours that are already habits. Those things you do that are so ingrained that we don’t have to think about them at all anymore. These could be things like driving a car, turning a light on when you walk into a room, flushing the toilet after you’ve been, or brushing your teeth in the morning – bucket four are things that come completely naturally, they happen everyday and every time they need to, without fail.

Then, in the second bucket, are the things which are stll easy to do but may need small prompts or reminders – for some people this might be drinking a glass of water in the morning – when you see a cup, or when you see a tap, or when you put the kettle on in the morning you think: “Drink my glass of water.” Or, this could be that you need a reminder to turn the light off before you leave the house.

In bucket number three are all those habits that you’re working on at the moment, so work in progress.

And finally, bucket number four which are those habits that you might work on changing, or adding, at some point in the future, but which you are not focusing on right now.

  1. For a habit to move down a bucket, it needs to have the space to move down. So, one reason your habit changes may not be sticking, is that you haven’t got the space in your life to embed new habits. Consider whether you’ve actually got room to be working on bucket number four, or even bucket number three, or are you still working on some other stuff that’s already in bucket two? So, if you really want to make changes, first make sure you’ve got capacity and space in your life to do it. This may mean you just need to make tiny changes, one step at a time. Or you may just need to focus on one thing at a time. Be honest with yourself: think carefully about what it is you want to tackle – it might just not be the season for you to be making a certain change right now. You might have lots going on that means focusing on some different habits will give you more space, more peace and less stress!
  2. Habit changes are less liklely to stick if you don’t believe they can happen. So to turn that around, take a look at your buckets and recognise the things that may have been hard to change in the past that now sit comfortably in buckets one or two. Remembering the process can help with this – remembering that you learned to dance that certain dance, remembering that you learned to drive a car, play a musical instrument, drink a glass of water before every meal, include more vegetables with your food… the list could be endless. What is it that you’ve done in the past that started off as a real conscious effort but has now become autopilot? Celebtrate what’s gone before, recgonise you are the kind of person that can make successful habit changes, and let those things spur you on to want to make new changes.
  3. if you think about bucket number four, up there at the top of your bucket chain, are the things in it things you really you want to tackle now? Perhaps the reason you aren’t making the habit change is that you aren’t ready for bucket number four to tip into bucket three and become work in progress, actually preferring those things stay where they are for the moment. We can always think of changes we might make in our lives that would be healthier for us in body spiritual or soul, but which for whatever reason are just not on our radar to change right now. So, you have a choice: accept that and leave them where they are in bucket four, or this might be the trigger that makes you think, “Hold on! Why don’t I want to change that? What’s my reasonning from holding back, why don’t I really want to do this thing?” Examine that a bit further, and if you realised deep down you do want to make the change, there’s some work that you can do to make it more of a desire and develop some intrinsic motivation to keep you going.

If you would like some support and encouragement to start making some healthy habit changes in your life, we’d love you to come and join our refreshed Healthy, Whole and Free programme. It looks a bit different this year and you can join at any time, but you’ll find the same supportive community to encourage you on your journey. You can find more information and sign up here


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