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  • Jayne Reah

Building Healthy Habits and Breaking Bad Ones

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

By Jane Cox


Creating new habits is hard to do and breaking bad ones even more challenging, or at least that’s my experience.

I’m a mindless phone scroller, I can easily lose all sense of time following my curiosity, clicking and commenting, swiping and sharing. Well what’s the harm in that – ok I find myself signing up to random webinars, and yes I have made some poor online shopping choices – and yes prolonged phone use is not great for your productivity, and yes the long term adverse effects on the brain are as yet unknown !!! But I enjoy it, I let off steam laughing at the silly things cats do, I feel I my horizons are expanding, I’m learning and growing, supercharging my creativity even if in reality I’m just irritating my husband each time I reach for that screen.


Now one of the topics I have frequently scrolled on, and am particularly curious about, is how we embed healthy habits into our daily lives. Which is also one of the reasons I did a Masters in Coaching & Behavioural Change and why I rushed to buy James Clear’s book “Atomic Habits - An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” when it first came out.


So why does learning about habit forming interest me? Well it not really because I want to break my phone scrolling habit, I can always just switch it off, or use one of the many apps that exist to control screen time.


I’m keen to learn more about habit formation as I know we are what we repeatedly do, and adopting healthy habits can increase personal resilience, and lead to improved chances of me and my clients achieving our desired goals. In the work that we do with our clients at Work Stories coaching we have identified 3 core habits that underpins our coaching model, that make a significant difference to how people feel about themselves, and we have found leads to improved coaching outcomes, these are Awareness , Self-Care and regular Reflective Practice.


So what does James Clear recommend about how to build habits? And how can we apply his techniques to developing our 3 Work Stories Healthy Habits. Well, I don’t want to spoil James’ whole book for you, but in amongst the detail of his 4-step process are two really practical techniques I absolutely love and want to share. They are:


Habit stacking – linking a new habit to a regular action or habit you already have. It’s Genius. You already have the existing habit, its already built into your brain, probably automatic, so you don’t even have to think about doing it, so by habit stacking all you are doing is making the existing habit the “cue” or “trigger” for your new habit - and doing them, one after the other, makes it so much more likely that you’ll stick to the new behaviour – definitely worth a go.

And secondly creating a Commitment device, e.g. doing something now, in the present to increase the odds that you’ll do the right things in the future. For example, me paying up front for a course of pilates classes, it's cheaper and I’m now committed to the classes or I’ve lost the cash!


Let me explain further by showing how we can use these techniques to embed the 3 Healthy habits that we have found so beneficial to our work with our clients at Work Stories coaching:

01. Awareness – This is the habit of tuning into our emotions and mental state at regular intervals during the day and using that information to make better decisions eg. Seeing how we are doing and resetting if necessary. Using Habit Stacking, I am able to consistently do this every time I walk though my front door at home, I touch the door frame, and consciously choose my attitude as I reconnect with my family after a day out of the office. So the habit of Awareness, or “tuning in”, has seamlessly been stacked onto the regular action of stepping through the front door.


02.Self-Care – This is the habit of consistently paying attention to our whole self and taking actions to maintain our physical and mental wellbeing. For me regularly running forms part of maintaining my mental and physical wellbeing and I tend to use the Commitment device when I know its going to be cold or rainy, and it might be easy for me to decide binge watching a boxset is a better form of self care than running!. So instead, I arrange up front to go running with a friend. I’m then committed as I don’t want to let them down more than I don’t want to go out running in the rain! Which actually is rather more fun than it sounds. If you'd like to read more about our coaches favourite ideas for self care activities read here.


03. Reflective Practice - This is the habit of taking regular time out during the week to strengthen your learning agility, to reflect on and learn from your actions and experiences & enable you to decide how to move forwards in a more informed and purposeful way. Here I use both Habit Stacking, and a Commitment Device. I pre-book regular co-coaching sessions with my Work Stories Co-founders, and have added the reflective practice into my preparations for these sessions. It’s a fabulous way to accelerate my personal growth without feeling the need to indulge my scrolling habit.


What habits are holding you and your organization back? What new habits would help move you towards your goals? If you would like to learn more about developing your healthy habits, or explore what else we do at Works Stories Coaching please do connect with us HERE.


Author: Jane Cox

Jane is a Work Stories Coaching founder and resident executive coach. To find out more about Jane client HERE



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