How to escape from difficult habits

What kind of battle are you fighting today? What type of habit is really draining you day after day? What is it in your life that you're needing to escape from?  You may laugh, but a while back, my answer would have been drinking Pepsi.  I love that stuff.  For me, nothing went better with pizza, a good ‘ole bacon burger, or a snack, than a Pepsi.  In fact, I was having soda almost everyday.  I needed a change.  Maybe you do too.  It might not be something as trivial as soda for you.  It may be something serious. You may be surrounded by a toxic work environment or a relationship that you need out of.  Your home environment or work culture may be needing a change.  Maybe there is a new life rhythm you are in search of finding.  


I was at lunch with a friend and we were talking about how hard it is to change our habits.  When we get together, we go through our usual conversational topics of how the family is doing, the difficulties of our responsibilities, what we would like to change in our lives, etc.  You probably have the same type of conversations with your friends over a meal or cup of coffee.  Eventually, our conversation gets to the good stuff.  


I’m finding that usually, what we want to change in our lives, has to do with something we have been struggling with for a while.   For me, my struggle this year has circled around the topic of my health, eating differently, exercising, more, spending  time with those who matter most to me and living a more intentional life instead of the tyranny of the urgent driving my day.  I want something different.  


I don’t know about you, but it takes great effort for me to change.  I have to focus, set goals, come up with a plan and then execute, and stay with it for a tremendously long period of time.   It takes so much focused effort and energy for me to change.   


When I was sharing this reality with my friend, I said "It’s like I have to escape from whatever it is I am dealing with and it’s gravitational pull on my life.  My buddy said, “It’s like escape velocity, right?”   At the time, I had no idea what the term meant but I really liked the visual.  He was telling me that escape velocity is basically the power a spaceship needs to get into space.   We moved on to other topics but I couldn’t stop thinking about how relatable that visual was for me. I had to study escape velocity. 


Basically, in physics, escape velocity is the minimum speed needed for an object to escape from the gravitational attraction of a massive body, without the aid of thrust, or suffering the resistance from friction.  Escape velocity is the speed that an object needs to be traveling to break free from a planet or the moon's gravity and leave it without further propulsion.   The object must have greater energy than its gravitational binding energy to escape the earth's gravitational field. (In case you were wondering, a spacecraft leaving the surface of Earth needs to be going 7 miles per second, or nearly 25,000 miles per hour to leave without falling back to the surface or falling into orbit.) 


So now that we have geeked out a bit, let’s come back to earth.  An object must have ‘greater energy’ in order to escape the gravitational pull.  What a great analogy for us to think about in the areas that we struggle personally.  A person must have greater energy in order to escape the habitual pull of….(you fill in the blank).   


We are all creatures of habit.  Most of the time, we go with the path of least resistance.  It’s easier that way.   In a day and time where information is at our fiingertips (hence, I can look up the definition for escape velocity in two seconds) and our calendars are  filled with tons of events, there is a gravitational pull for all of us to what is easy.  We have less energy not greater energy.  


For me, my “gravitational pull” was Pepsi.  I decided this year that I wasn’t going to drink sodas.  That is easier said than done.  I’ve tried quitting “cold turkey” many habits in my life.  For me, it doesn’t work.  I needed a plan.  I needed “greater energy” towards this new goal.  What’s your gravitational pull?  


I researched soda alternatives.  I turned to sparkling water.  You may laugh, but I researched the reviews of over fifty different flavors of  sparkling water.  I narrowed down my search to two brands and ordered multiple flavors.  Every time I would have pizza or a burger or whatever else I would enjoy have a soda with, I grabbed a different flavor to try.   Over time, I have been able to change my habit and my addiction to sodas.  In the book Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson, it is said that generally the solution to our challenge is not to “try harder” but rather to “try differently.”  You and I seldom improve much without giving the task at hand our full attention.   


What about you?  Is there something in your life you want to change or escape from?  Is there something that you need to stop trying harder and instead need to try differently? 


Scientists have explained that every habit is made up of a cue, a routine, and a reward.  The cue is a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine— the behavior itself—which can be physical, mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular habit is worth remembering for the future. Over time, this loop— cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward— becomes more automatic as the cue and reward become neurologically intertwined. 


Changing your operating system is really hard and needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, little by little.  Think Flywheel.  You are building a new flywheel AND creating slow, powerful, movement.   By taking one little step at a time, you and I can build one win after another.  Over time this will become an unstoppable momentum.   You can do it. Take time today to try differently with that hard to break habit.  Little by little you will gain momentum.  There is freedom on the horizon.  


I believe that our best days are before us…not behind us.  We all need a little encouragement, wisdom, and help from time to time.  We can’t accomplish our goals in isolation or always on our own.  We need each other.  Remember, you are not alone. It’s time to thrive.  Let’s do it together.   Click here to set up a Discovery Coaching call.