Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the tag “BJ Fogg”

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

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Simple… but not easy

 I heard the phrase, simple but not easy, quite a few years ago. I can’t remember exactly what the circumstances were at the time… but I can tell you that I’ve considered that phrase so many times since. For the last few years, I’ve been reading the blog Zen Habits by Leo Babauta. He also has a blog on minimalism, which is really interesting. In both cases, there are often times when I think about how much happier my life might be if I were to simplify. If I could learn to minimize… slow down… commit to less… enjoy more… breathe deeper, longer, and more consciously. These are very simple acts… and yet… somehow so elusive.

Upon further reflection, I realize that the elusiveness comes from the difficulty in implementation. Minimizing means throwing things away. Things I like. Things that might have sentimental value. Things I think I might need some day. Or, on the other hand, not buying things in the first place. Things I like. Things that are calling my name! Slowing down means not everything gets done. Committing less means letting people down. It means saying no, for crying out loud!

So, how do we make these simple acts easier to do? Well… I definitely can’t say I have this down! Lately I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed, cluttered and chaotic. I’ve recently been reminded of an approach to behavior change that rings true… slow but steady wins the race. Leo Babauta has a program he calls “Sea Change” where he leads participants through one dedicated change each month. You spend the entire month committed to gradually building up the habit of that one change. BJ Fogg, a behavior change researcher, contends that pairing a behavior change with an engrained habit can produce great results. You might try committing to 5 minutes of exercise every morning after brushing your teeth. Now, you might think 5 minutes is not enough time to really see the benefits of exercise. The argument is that committing to do it, using the teeth brushing as a trigger, and following through… even if it is only 5 minutes… is the best start you can make toward change. Eventually, maybe even right away, you will exercise for more than 5 minutes. But for now, it is the art of commitment and follow through that you are branding into your conscious habit.

Given my current state of overwhelm, I’m not going to attempt anything so lofty as exercise… 5 minutes or not! I’ve decided that breathing deeper, longer and more consciously is a beautiful act that I would like to practice more. I’ve already been trying to do it more lately and it feels good. It offers a taste of joy. My plan is to use the tactic above to make it easier. Every morning when I first get into the shower, I’m going to take a long deep breath. If the moment strikes me, I may take two. But the committment is one long, deep, conscious breath. Stepping into the shower is the habitual act that is already in place, that I do every morning. Maybe I’ll put a sticky note on the shower door to help me remember.

Now, before I finish, I’ll let you in on a little secret. In all honesty, this committment seems small. It seems almost irrelevant. It seems to dwindle in comparison to the big goals of losing weight, exercising more, committing to less, slowing down… and the list goes on. But here’s the interesting part… I get really overwhelmed when I think about those lofty goals. Here’s what I know about taking one deep breath when I step into the shower tomorrow… I can do it! And I think that’s part of the equation we’re looking for… a very high confidence level that I can make this happen. SO… I’m committing to one very small act… and I invite you to do the same. Be sure to let me know how it goes.

Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

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