Becoming a Better Person – The Power of Habits

I often ask myself the question, almost as a form of meditation: “how can I become a better person? What changes can I make to improve myself?”

As 2020 started, you might have made New Year resolutions – the grand promises you make to yourself to improve. We know that these changes can often end up discarded after the first few weeks. But why?

I recently listened to a great audiobook about this sort of thing that has really helped me: Atomic Habits by James Clear*. If you haven’t heard of it already, I highly recommend it. In this book the author discusses the power of habits and how they shape who we are, how we approach changes, and what we can do to get the best from ourselves. Here are a few of the ideas that I’ve found useful:

Start Small

This is the main idea behind the whole book and sounds like great advice. Many of us aim for big changes. We go on crash diets after overindulging, or go from being sedentary to hitting the gym as hard as we can…And when we don’t see quick results, we give up and feel defeated.

If you want to make changes that last, don’t go for huge goals. Start with small, manageable steps and develop a system for completing this. If you improve things by just 1% a day (or even a week) this still adds up over time and can be life changing.

If you want to be a writer, for example, it would be better to schedule a few minutes in your day to write one page, or even one paragraph, every day and stick to it…than to start with the goal of writing the whole book as quickly as you can, become overwhelmed and not write again.

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” James Clear (2018)

Identity

A really important point is that our habits are closely linked to our identity. So ask yourself: “how do I see myself?”

If, for example, you tell yourself and others that you’re a lazy person, or someone who doesn’t like change, this will effect your motivation and can become self-fulfilling.

If you view yourself as a healthy person who enjoys a challenge, you are more likely to make choices and develop habits that reinforce this. So a good way to change your habits is to work on how you talk to, and perceive yourself. A good way to do this is too…

Stay Positive

We don’t function very well on negatives. What this means is…if you tell yourself things like “I want to stop being lazy”, or “I want to stop wasting money”, you are telling yourself what you don’t want.

But what do you want? Consider statements like “I want to be healthier” or “I want to look after my money”. They’re more positive and are more to do with who you are or who you want to be. Once you figure this out, you need to…

Be Specific

In order to change, you need to identify the habits you already have; you need to do a ‘habit audit’. For example, if your goal is to increase physical activity, or to eat more healthily, you need to look at the specifics. Plot out a typical day. What are you eating that’s unhealthy? What are the times of the day that you’re least active and have a choice over what you can do?

From this you can look at the choices that you make and how they fit in with your values. You can then look at what you want to change as necessary.

Whatever changes you want to make, if you want it to become a habit, you need to be as specific as possible. This links back to the first point of starting small, as, once you have a specific change in mind, you can look at the incremental steps necessary.

How I’ve applied this

So, as an example, one of the habits that I want to work on is the amount of screen time I have – particularly my mobile (cell) phone as, like most people, it’s become a bit of an addiction. So I needed to look at what this actually meant.

By doing a habit audit I’ve figured out that the times of the day I use it most, and feel most guilty about, are first thing in the morning, and when I come home at night.

I’ve figured that my phone affects how I interact with my family and doesn’t set a good example to my son…(something I value highly). So, to frame this positively, “I want to spend more time engaging properly with my family” and, in terms of my identity, “I’m a good father who leads by example” so reducing screen time is inline with this.

So, to start small, I’m going to try to remember to leave my phone in another room at meal times. It’s not a total ban. I’m just reducing the time a bit. I’m also marking on the calendar every day that I do this so I can keep track of this. So far…so good! 🙂

*I have no affiliation in any way with the author. I just really enjoyed the book, which is filled with great ways to change our habits, and wanted to share this! I also think if we all make small, positive changes each day, great things could happen. 🙂

Thank you for reading this post. I’m always keen to receive constructive feedback, so please leave a comment. 🙂 If you liked this post, please like, share and subscribe.

References:

Clear, James. (2018) Atomic Habits Random House Business

A Beginners Guide to The Sports Jacket…The Gentleman’s Essential

The sports jacket – so called because of being traditionally worn in Britain for sporting pursuits such as shooting and hunting, is a timeless piece in a gentleman’s wardrobe. You can wear it casually or dress it up, and it has both form and function; keeping you warm but also looking your best. So, if you’ve never owned one before…what should you be looking for in this most gentlemanly of garments?

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The Subtle Art of Conversation – 7 Tips for Better Communication

Without doubt, the ability to communicate well with others is one of the most important skills that we can poses, and developing these skills can bring great rewards, both for personal and professional reasons.

We revere great orators and teachers. We gravitate towards people who are good conversationalists, and communication skills are often top of the list of what employers look for most in a new employee.

With this in mind, I’ve been looking at some of the ways we can try to improve this.

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The Discomfort of Leaving the Comfort Zone…Is It Worth It?

We are often told, almost ad nauseam, that in order to be successful and happy in life we need to be courageous! We need to constantly be moving forwards! We need to ‘step out of our comfort-zone!’ But do we? Really? What are some of the benefits of this. Is it really worth pushing through the discomfort that comes with it?

Ok, so confession time. I struggle a bit with change. It’s caused me anxiety in the past, and I don’t really like feeling like I’m not in control, so I thought I would have a look at this idea and see if it’s really as beneficial as many say it is.

So the initial question is…

What really is our ‘Comfort Zone’ anyway?

This was difficult because I can’t find much in the way of good, solid research regarding the concept and how it’s defined. Many of the books and articles that I’ve found seem to be anecdotal/opinion.

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Happiness. What Is It…and A Few Ideas Regarding How You Might Increase It.

Ask yourself: how happy are you right now…let’s say on a scale of one to ten?

This might seem an easy enough question to answer at a basic level, but maybe, if I ask you to look deeper, you’ll begin to realise how complicated answering this can become.

You might look to how happy you feel about work or home life. You might look beyond the personal to local or even global issues. You might think about the past, present or how you feel about the future….Happiness is multifaceted. So…

What actually is Happiness?

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Manners…The Essence of A Gentleman (and Why They’re Still Important).

Ask yourself the following question – can a man still be called a gentleman without money? Without status? How about without good manners?

I’ve asked this question often, and always seem to get the same response – if you want to be treated like a gentleman, good manners are essential – hence why I felt it important to write a post about this.

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Gentleman’s Shoes – The Oxford, The Derby, The Brogue, and the Monk Strap…What They Are and Why You Should Know the Difference.

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Up until relatively recently, I was the sort of man who just had a few pairs of shoes that I had bought without much thought; based on their general look, comfort and, mainly, the price. Whilst loving nice clothes and spending a bit on suits, I usually assigned myself a relatively minimal budget for footwear.

Recently, however, I acquired a copy of ‘Gentleman‘* by Bernhard Roetzel. A mighty tome that has been translated into many different languages. Roetzel is a real authority on how to dress like a gentleman.

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Shaving…the Traditional Way

Prior to growing a beard for charity and never going back, shaving had become almost a hobby for me. In my youth I had used the common, three-blade razors without much thought. But then I discovered the world of traditional shaving. I became obsessed. Looking at all of the equipment, comparing razor blades…it felt so much more manly and involved than just grabbing whatever was on the shelves in the local supermarket. I would still recommend this method of shaving to you if you were to ask me, and I still use it now when maintaining the lines of my beard. In this post, I’m going to tell you why.

Okay…just to be clear, I’m not talking about the cut-throat, straight razor shaving. That’s something I leave to the barber and those far braver than I. I’m talking about something called a ‘safety razor‘ (see below) which is a T shaped, usually metal handle, that encases a ‘double-edge (or ‘DE’) blade’ . Part of the blade is exposed and goes directly against the skin.

Merkur safety razor with a ‘Feather’ DE blade.
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Coffee and a Chat with a Sports and Exercise Nutritionist – (And A Few Tips that Might Improve Your Health).

I recently got to sit and have a coffee and a chat with a friend of mine, which is always good. What was particularly good is that, on this occasion, this friend was Jason Fligg, a registered Sports and Exercise Nutritionist, college lecturer who teaches up to degree level, and someone who also runs his own company: Jason Fligg Sports and Exercise Performance, based in Norwich, Norfolk, UK. Jason works with a range of people, from individuals who want to be healthier generally, up to professional athletes, and is also a UK Anti-Doping Advisor. I seized the opportunity, and he had some great things to say; this is some of what we discussed:

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