I was at the supermarket the other day, and while queuing to purchase my items, I noticed a guy in front of me walking out of the supermarket, around twenty years old. He was wearing a backpack that clearly had plenty of room in it, and he was holding a plastic bag full of groceries. I wondered why he hadn’t just put the groceries in the backpack he already had, rather than use another plastic bag? And if this is a habit, then how do you break it?
I know I am making an assumption that whatever was in the backpack (which didn’t look like much) could easily cohabitate with the groceries, I could have been wrong. But what got me thinking was more about finding an effective method for how to change a habit. I would like to use the plastic bag example to show how you can change any habit.
The first step in the habit I noticed was that the person on the checkout immediately puts items in a plastic bag. Unless you say no to them straight away, that is what many checkout people will do. Their jobs are so routine that putting items in bags becomes their default mode. The second step is the shopper may not have been conscious of the option he has of saying no to the plastic bag. Each week I notice that many people don’t seem to be that aware or motivated to insist on no plastic bags. The third step is how to increase people’s motivation to do the right thing by the planet in order to ensure its long-term sustainability as a healthy place to live. Even if the plastic bags are now recyclable, most households still have more bags than they need, so its still plastic going to waste.
I think the solution for reducing plastic bag usage is the same for any habit you wish to change, and this has three parts:
Step 1: Clarify Values – if the thing you really want to change is important enough to you, you then have the motivation to change. For plastic bags, if the health of the planet, and being a more responsible person, including how you use resources, is really important to you, you will be motivated to do what you can to help and improve yourself.
Step 2: Change the Behaviour – now your motivation is high, then you will be willing to go beyond behaviour that is just easy and that suits you, and you will put effort in to doing the right thing.
Step 3: Change the Mindset – from excuses to reasons, from ‘I cant be bothered’, or ‘what I do doesn’t matter’, to ‘I feel better when I do the right thing, as I am contributing to a healthy planet, and hopefully also being a good role model for others’. You challenging the excuses one part of your mind will make, that part of you that resists any change no matter how good it may be.
Step 4: Plan Ahead – each time you plan to go to the supermarket, you make sure you have your bags ready to take, along with your grocery list. Planning is an important step in changing any habit, including eating and drinking habits, shopping habits, relationship habits, and workplace habits.
You need all four elements for lasting change to occur. By practicing these steps, your new conscious, values-based actions and decisions create powerful energy that lead you in the direction you want to take your life. Make sure you recognise the progress you make, including praising yourself, as this reinforces the change. See if you can apply this simple formula to the habits you would like to change, and let me know how it goes, by replying to this blog. I would love to hear from you.
My coaching involves a more complex version of these steps. I help you change from the inside out, and by removing your personal blocks I help you become more successful and happy. Please see www.petercharleston.com for more details.