The Light Switch Habit
by Robin Sacks
Have you ever had the electricity go out in your home and you walk into a room and, out of habit, still turn on a light switch because it’s dark?
The funny thing is, if I walk into that same room 10 times in a row with the electricity still being out, chances are I’m going to reach out and flip the switch on every single time!
That is how ingrained our habits are.
Habits run your life, whether they make sense or not. When we are on autopilot, we do things simply because they’re habits, not because they are helpful or serve us in the moment.
Just like walking into that dark room, knowing the electricity is not working and still reaching out to flip the light switch on is an example of how we often go through our lives in the dark. We are on autopilot, constantly reaching for light switches that may or may not help us at all in the moment — yet, we reach for them anyway.
The good news is, you can make that ‘autopilot’ work for you. Take advantage of the fact that your brain latches on to habits. Here’s are three ways to begin creating habits that serve you in a positive and productive way.
First, start paying more attention.
The main reason that people have habits that hold them back instead of move them forward is because they’re simply not paying attention. You have got to get in the moment before you can take control of anything. You have no control in the past; you have no control in the future. The only time you are in control is now. Use the present moment to pay attention to what is actually happening right now. Only then are you able to make choices for the current situation that truly make sense for you.
Second, identify the triggers for your current habits.
There are 3 parts to every habit: the trigger, the behavior, and the reward. (Keep in mind that reward in this context does not necessarily always mean good; sometimes it just means comfort.) If you want to change a habit, you need to be focusing on the behavior part. Triggers may always be there in life, and you can’t always control them (so stop trying so hard to do that). Focus on what you are going to CHOOSE to do WHEN those triggers appear. That is where your power lies. That is the one place you have control. Get clarity on what triggers the habits that don’t serve you, and make a conscious choice to DO something different when they show up.
Finally, be intentional about applying new habits.
It’s not enough to do a new behavior once or twice. You have to make it the thing you do every time that trigger appears. That’s how it becomes a habit! Be intentional, be deliberate. Set a boundary with yourself that reminds you that “you don’t do that anymore; now you do this instead.” That self-talk voice in your head can be used for good, not just evil! ;) Create a script in your head that supports your new habit and acts as a coach to remind you that you have another option when triggered, and you will choose it.
The next time you walk into a ‘dark room’ in your life and automatically reach out to flip a switch, walk through these steps in your mind. You don’t have to do what you’ve always done. In fact, if you want any growth or change to happen in your life for the better, you’ve got to get better at choosing what light switches you reach for.