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09 Oct, 2012

Your Habits – Good Or Bad? – Susan Grandfield

Posted by: The Coaching Academy In: Coach Plus Articles|Life Coaching Articles|Personal Success|Tips

Your Habits - Good Or Bad? - Susan Grandfield

How do you butter your toast?

How do you pack your case before going on holiday?

How do you relax at the weekend?

How do you deal with stressful situations?

How do you respond to people who cut you up on the motorway?

Your answer to each of these questions tells you something about your patterns of behaviour or habits.

Some of your habits might be really useful, enjoyable and give you a great outcome such as working out at the gym after a hard day at work, laying all of your holiday documentation out and checking it 100 times before you leave to go on holiday or having a quiet coffee on a Friday afternoon in your favourite coffee shop.

Some of your habits may, in fact, be less useful, maybe even destructive such as aggressive driving and shouting insults at the guy who cut you up on the motorway or going to the pub every Thursday night and drinking 10 pints.

However, habits are habits for good or bad. When they kick in, you are usually not considering whether they are right or wrong you just go into the flow. Your subconscious mind takes over and plays out a well rehearsed set of actions.

Do you sometimes recognise patterns of behaviour that are starting to have a negative effect on you or people around you?

For example, eating when you are feeling a bit down, snapping at a colleague who always (to your mind) makes stupid comments in team meetings, flopping down on the sofa in the evening rather than taking some exercise.

If you have, then perhaps you are looking for a way to break those patterns of behaviour and create new habits. Ones that will give you a more positive outcome such as help you get fitter, lose weight, build better relationships at work, spend more time with your children, get ahead at work and so on.

Developing new habits is remarkably simple to do (believe it or not!). All it requires is time, patience and determination. Are you up for it?

Maxwell Maltz was an American cosmetic surgeon who tried to help his patients deal with their self-image and limiting beliefs so that they could deal with their body image more effectively.

Through his research he found that if positive mantra’s or affirmations were said by his patients every day for 21 days, their self-perception changed and they began to feel more confident about the way they looked.

Maltz’s research has become the foundation for recognising that new habits – patterns of behaviour or thought – can be generated in 21 days through repetition.

So, there is your first step to creating a new habit……repeat whatever it is that you want to do or think every day for 21 days. Simple!

Actually, it’s not that simple! If your aim is to change an existing habit, you have to replace the current behaviour or thought pattern with the new one and that can take 100 days.

Think of your habit as a comfortable pair of shoes! You have worn them so many times that when you put them on you don’t even know you are wearing them. They fit perfectly and enable you to go about your daily business as you have always done.

You trust them because you know how they are going to look, what outfits they go with and the fact that they don’t give you blisters.

You know that they are really old looking now and people are starting to comment on how bad they look but the alternative is going out there, trailing around hundreds of shops to try and find an replacement pair. You just know the process will be long and painful and you still may not end up with such a good pair.

So… stick with what you know, despite the feedback other people (perhaps including yourself) are giving you.

To change your habit you need to consider what the benefits of that initially painful process of change will be. What will this new habit give you? What will it enable you to do that you can’t do now? How will it impact on other people who are important to you?

Once you have given yourself a compelling reason to make the change, you then need to do 4 things:

  • become aware of the behaviour or thought that you want to change and specifically when they act out (you may want to write it down so that you can start to recognise the pattern)
  • every time you feel yourself doing or thinking that thing, pause, take a breath and change your physiology or your environment
  •  identify what behaviour or thought you would like to have instead
  • start doing it and keep doing it for 21 days

Then you will start to see the benefit. You will have “broken in” the new habit, just like that new pair of shoes, and, if you keep focusing on your compelling reason, you will be eventually be able to replace the old with the new and very soon your new habit will be just as comfortable as the old one!

3 Responses to "Your Habits – Good Or Bad? – Susan Grandfield"

1 | Sousa Hari

October 9th, 2012 at 7:44 pm


Thanks for this Susan, I like your reference to old but comfy shoes.

I have found that some of my clients self-sabotage their attempts to change their unwanted habits. After questioning ‘What does this give you’, the answers have ranged from ‘comfort’, ‘familiarity’ to ‘stability’. I believe this shows how deeply ingrained habits become, that they are an integral part of us. It may be that we are afraid by losing a part of us, we may end up losing our whole identity.

Also, I found that using a month as a target for change, the extra timeframe helped more clients, although 21 days works well for some. The problem is that most of us have a hiccup while installing the change. This can be a dangerous time when an old habit can take back its control. 30 days allows us to forgive ourselves for the lapse and to reinstate the new habit with extra awareness.

My last point is – the habit loop needs to be documented by the client over a period of time to find out precisely which part of the loop needs to be replaced and to discover at what point in the loop it happens. It can be tedious for the client but preparation makes for perfect results!

Sousa Hari, The Habit Breaker

2 | Sue MacGillivray

October 10th, 2012 at 12:38 pm


A great article- thank you Susan. It can be difficult to believe that we can change habits- the comfortable shoes and the 21 day rule are a great start to really believing it’s possible!

3 | Philip Dyer

October 14th, 2012 at 9:13 am


Easy to read and easy to understand – a well thought through article. Thank you.

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