Part of developing a new habit is thinking highly of yourself for awareness of what you want to do different.
You can’t change anything if you don’t know you want to change it. And even if you know you want to change something you have to think of it at the right time to act differently.
Let’s say that I recognize that I avoid eye contact when talking to people. Consequently people have told me that I seem disinterested. If I want to change that behavior, to look at people when I talk to them, then I have to first recognize what I want to do differently.
Unfortunately most people at this point are thinking about how horrible of a person they are because they have this glaring, irreparable flaw. And so they chalk this up to a weakness and never think about it again. Those people never afford themselves the confidence to change.
However, awareness alone is invaluable. Even if it is long after the fact it means you are closer to your goal than you were a moment before.
Next you should strive for awareness in the moment (AITM), when you can do something about it!
But before you get to AITM you’ll have ample opportunity to become aware after the fact (AATF).
Of course, you can’t change anything afterwards. So, many people cudgel themselves for not acting differently. As if behavior is mere knowledge of what you want to do and then poof you should be doing it that way thereafter.
From my perspective you’ve accomplished something wonderful every time AATF happens. It’s awareness.
And if you pay attention, you’ll often find that you become aware sooner and sooner to the moment when you can act. Awareness is almost like radioactive decay, a half-life with exponential progress.
Maybe the first time you talk to someone without eye contact it takes you a day to realize it. Then, half a day… a few hours… an hour… ten minutes… and then suddenly you find yourself mid-conversation startled that you’re aware of the fact that you’re not making eye contact.
And that’s when you can act differently!
Don’t bludgeon yourself if you freeze.
Sometimes it is hard to act differently. Especially if you find that eye contact is discomforting. Fine, it doesn’t matter because eventually you will.
AITM tends to repeat. And that’s because you’ve already developed a habit of thinking about it in the moment. Recognize that habit!
Acting different a few times leads to habituation. Eventually you no longer even need to think about it, it just happens. And it feels odd if it doesn’t happen!
That’s when awareness fades and feelings take over. Your attention is freed up to focus on the next change you want to make.
Now, the journey isn’t always unidirectional. Sometimes you forget, and slip. If you beat yourself up, you’ll get nowhere. Instead, recognize where you are, pat yourself on the back, get excited, and you’ll move toward greater awareness and habituate before you know it.
I’ve used this simple technique for years now. I no longer beat myself up when I slip in my awareness. I simply look at all that I’ve accomplished and keep trying to curate new habits even if some of them are taking longer.
The key is to recognize awareness for what it is–a step in the right direction.
And, habits are like a moving average, not a light switch. They represent a trend in your past behavior. So give your habits time to reflect where you want to go based on actual progress, not a mere desire to act different on a whim.