The Secret to Better Habits

The things we struggle with, the internal weaknesses that hold us back and the personal obstacles that prevent us from making real change hold the key to changing our lives for good.

Internal obstacles are behaviour patterns and habits that prevent us from accomplishing what we want or building a better life.

If you too absorbed in yourself and your opinions, you are not likely to change your mind in the face of new or better information.

Less-confident people are less likely to launch side projects, demand better pay or do anything outside what society expects of them.

If you tend to procrastinate a lot, your work could take twice as long to get done. You could waste a lot of time in the process if you don’t find a way to get things done as scheduled.

Fear is another internal obstacle that kills more careers than skill. No matter how good you are, if you are afraid to take a step, make a move, pursue a passion project, your inactions will cripple the ideal life you want.

A better and deeper understanding of our own internal obstacles is key to changing habits for good.

Our internal struggles are personal. What stops you from becoming a better version of yourself might be different from my personal obstacles. That’s why it’s important to find specific solutions to your own struggles.

“Too often, books deliver one-size-fits-all approaches to common goals, like getting in shape or eating healthier. But since the internal forces preventing me from starting a new habit might be different from those preventing you from starting the same one, that doesn’t really work. That’s why it’s essential to tailor the science to our own barriers, picking and choosing strategies where they fit the internal opponent we’re up against,” says Katy Milkman, the author of How to Change.

Do you know your barriers to better habits? The emotional obstacles that prevent you from taking action hold the key to your best life.

Finding better habits, routines, or behaviors for your internal struggles is a better way to overcome bad habits. Every one of our barriers needs specific ideas and behavior patterns to counter it.

“People who choose what they really want, and avoid temptations and get over the pains that drive away from what they really want are much more likely to have successful lives.” — Ray Dalio

You can only achieve your long-term goals if your rational brain can convince your emotional brain that the fear of failure is not the end of your life. If you can’t find a way to stop feeding your fears, you will probably never build a better life. Everything you want is on the other side of fear.

Until you overcome the fear of getting stuck, you will find many more reasons why something won’t work than a few reasons why it’s worth the risk.

Many of the external obstacles and excuses we make in life (I’m not ready, I don’t have enough money to invest, I’m not skilful enough, I don’t have time at the moment) are just internal struggles in disguise.

Example, for many people the bigger goal is to invest a percentage of their income into an investment account every year.

What’s stopping them from doing that:

External: I don’t make enough money to start investing.

Internal: I am afraid of the risk of investment. What if I lose it all? (It’s a legitimate reason, but you could invest in low cost and low-risk products).

If you want anything bad enough, you will find a reason or a way to make it happen. Your emotional brain will give way to your rational brain if you are ready to commit to a new habit, routine and make it stick.

If your current bad habit is too strong to break, you must work twice as hard to break the chain. Otherwise, you will always find an excuse to stay on the same path that’s practically leading to nowhere.

And always remember, you starting small is one of the best ways to replace bad habits. “Making smaller, more frequent commitments is more effective than making larger, less frequent ones, even when they amount to the same commitment (like saving 5 dollars a day as opposed to 1,825 dollars a year),” writes Katy Milkman, PhD, in her book, “How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.”

Overcoming your inner struggles is the best way to build an ideal life.

You can eliminate internal obstacles with a plan. If they are getting in the way of your life goals, learn more about them and the many ways you can get past them to become a better version of yourself.

In many situations, if you lack knowledge, educate yourself. New skills can help you overcome some of your insecurities.

Here’s a simple exercise to help you overcome your internal struggles

  1. Get a physical notebook/notepad.
  2. Write down precisely what you want to achieve for the areas of your life that need to change (work, health, relationships, wealth, skills, etc.)
  3. For every area of your life that needs to change, list the many internal obstacles (fear, rejection, anxiety, ego, laziness, procrastination, etc.) you need to overcome.
  4. Add the external obstacles (money, time, resources, skills) that have also become your many excuses.
  5. Create a proactive plan to overcome both your external and internal obstacles. For example, if you think you don’t have time to exercise, list the many ways you can find time to do it (early morning or late evening).
  6. List the many benefits of starting that new habit or achieving that goal you desperately want to accomplish.
  7. An action plan can help convince your emotional brain that you have a plan to make things better.

Overcoming your internal obstacles is an inside job. Every time you try to talk yourself out of doing something significant for an ideal life, think about why you want it in the first place and how it can change your life for good. Don’t talk yourself out of better decisions/habits. Your future self depends on it.