Behavior Change 101
So… it’s been about 3 weeks since I started blogging again! I happen to be playing around with behavior change lately and one thing I’m realizing is that consistency is key! It’s a lot harder to stick to something that happens inconsistently than it is to stick to one small thing every day or every week around the same time. With the blogging, when I leave it up to chance… it doesn’t seem to happen. I’m realizing this is pretty true of most habits – they have to be consistent to stick.
I’m starting a week-long program with BJ Fogg, a behavior change researcher from Stanford University. I’ve gone through the week-long program once, so this will be my second go-round. There are a few important components to his method and they seem to work pretty well… Let me share the highlights.
First of all, you pick three things you want to add to your routine. (BJ’s model does not address habits you want to quit — stay tuned for more on that in a future blog). One of the most critical realizations of this model’s success is starting small. The idea is not to pick your ultimate end-state behavior, but rather to pick a very small starter step toward your desired state. An action that seems almost ridiculously easy and that you are really certain you can do! (This part of the process cannot be emphasized enough!) The difference between exercising for 30 minutes vs. putting on your sneakers. It’s that small!
The second step is to identify an anchor. Basically, you pick something that you already do consistently every day, and link your new action to that established behavior. Anything you do consistently every day can work, such as waking up, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, etc. One of my anchors is taking my morning medicine… something I do every day without fail.
The last piece of the model includes celebration. Now, I’m going to be honest here… I’ve always struggled with rewarding myself for good behavior. I’ll admit that there have been more than one occasion where I set up a reward for myself if I did xyz… and then rewarded myself anyway, even when I failed! Once I got it in my head that I wanted xyz… well… come on! This celebration thing is a little different though. Basically, after you do your very small starter step toward your ultimate goal, you do some kind of little celebration. Whether it’s a self-congratulatory, “woo hoo” or a pat on the back. It seems silly, but it makes so much sense when you think about it. This is my take on it… you’re picking an action step that is ridiculously easy. Putting on your shoes in the morning, or flossing one tooth (one of BJ Fogg’s favorite examples), does not lend itself to celebration. The reality is, It’s a very small step that in-and-of-itself does not necessarily lead you to feel triumphant. That’s where the celebratory trickery comes in (my term, not BJ’s!). When you give yourself an “atta girl” or “woo hoo” after completing that small step, your brain begins to associate success and accomplishment and generally good feelings with that action. That’s a plus!
Here’s an example from my first week… 1) check the to-do list on my phone immediately after taking my morning medicine, 2) send a text or email to a friend after I bring up my email in the morning, and 3) do one round of EFT (emotional freedom technique) after I journal at night. The first two habits stuck… and in fact, checking my to-do list in the morning has proven very effective in making me feel more organized and less stressed about what’s not getting done at home. The last one, the EFT after journaling, was not successful. I don’t always journal at the same time each night and often I’m exhausted by the time I’m jotting down my final thoughts. It just wasn’t a good anchor for this particular task. Good learning.
I’ve started another round this week and I’ve brought the EFT forward with some changes to my anchor. This time, I’m going to do a round of EFT after I turn on the shower in the morning. I’m not sure what I normally do as I wait for the water to get hot… but it’s probably not very productive! I’ve also decided that I’ll do 2 squats when I first sit down in the morning (I have a spot where I always sit down first thing in the morning (use your imagination)… so this seemed like an anchor that might work. And finally, I’m going to take 3 deep breaths after I take my evening medicine. (Questioning that one, since my evening medicine time varies like my evening journaling, but we’ll see how it goes).
So… that’s basically the gist of it. Pick a ridiculously small first step toward an ultimate goal, have it follow an anchor that you’re already doing every day, and celebrate shamelessly upon completion of ridiculously small step! Voila. I’ll let you know how it goes for me. I encourage you to try it out for yourself!! Learn more at BJ’s tiny habits site… http://www.tinyhabits.com/
Love and laughter to you! ~Rashel