Do you catch yourself having a cookie every day at three o’clock in the afternoon just because? Routinely staying up too late even though you need to wake up early? And do you do these things despite wanting not to—feeling like you just can’t break the habit?
Before we can make changes to our habits, we need to understand why we do them and what purpose they serve. Once you understand that, you can make strategic changes to replace your bad habits with good ones.
1. Understanding Antecedents
You may think that your habit is simply eating a daily cookie at three o’clock in the afternoon. Eating the cookie is just the result of your habit, which means that something (a thought, feeling, or external cue) happened prior to that cookie which made you want to eat it. This is called the antecedent, the event that comes before the behavior.
In the case of eating the cookie, what happened before that? Did you look at the clock and realize it with 3pm or do you have a daily meeting with your manager at 2pm that always upsets you? Understanding the trigger, whether it’s internal (a thought or feeling) or external (time of day, the presence of other people or events) helps you stop the behavior from happening in the first place by changing your reaction or interpretation to the antecedent.