Learn more about habits with this collection
Cultivating a growth mindset and embracing challenges
Developing adaptive thinking and problem-solving skills
Effective learning frameworks and approaches
Habits can be a powerful tool for achieving goals and getting things done. Automatic and requiring little effort to implement, habits can help you yield the results you want, but only if you’re someone who is wired for disciplined living with a dependable schedule.
Many of us are “unhabiters,” someone who juggles multiple roles and responsibilities and has a life that’s busy and unpredictable. Unhabiters need a more flexible approach to behaviour change, which is why habits just don’t work.
People who are successful with habits formation have strong willpower and are organized. They tend to stick to their plan even when they’re tempted to make impulsive choices because they are innately disciplined. And perhaps most importantly, they tend to have schedules that run according to plan without a lot of disruption.
Unhabiters, however, often have roles and responsibilities that can interrupt plans. An unhabiter may have to care for children or elders. These roles can add unexpected activities that derail plans. A rigid habit schedule isn’t going to work.
If you have the personality type or lifestyle that doesn’t support an unwavering habit loop, you can leverage your brain’s executive functioning system, also called your prefrontal cortex.
The prefrontal cortex provides three primary executive functions: working memory, which allows you to remember and work with one or two pieces of information at a time; cognitive flexibility, which lets you course correct and switch gears in the face of new information; and inhibition, which provides us with self-control.
Some ways we can boost our prefrontal cortex are through good nutrition, exercise, and mental games.
These measures don’t always help when we face a real-life situation and must make a choice in the moment. To address this point of conflict, there is a simple method called POP that helps can be used at a point of conflict—such as a distraction from your goals—to support flexible thinking.
POP stands for “pause,” “open your options,” and “pick the joy choice.”
Pause: The wisdom of the pause gives us a chance to create space between stimulus and response. Taking a breath and pausing help support our working memory.
Open your options: Choice points are all about logistics, managing plans, and resources.
Pick the joy choice: Of your options, choose the one that makes you feel best about resolving the situation.
By definition, it’s the perfect imperfect action that lets us do something instead of nothing, so that we stay consistent, and stand with our needs.
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