“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” – Jim Ryun
I know you may be one of them. Did you take a new year’s resolution to start exercising then cancelled your gym membership in February? Do you turn in bed for hours before falling asleep? The motivation to do better was there once but finding it, again and again, can prove difficult – enter habits!
The secret to owning the day comes from two things: doing what we can to feel our best throughout the day subconsciously and doing the things that make us feel good about ourselves on top of it. Habits will help you with the latter.
A habit is created by tricking the mind, the same way we train our pets. We say a word that triggers an action. When the action is done, we give them a treat and say “Who is a good boy?” as well as a little scratch. After a while, pets start looking for that reward when they hear the word and they know that it can only be achieved through completing the specific action. Soon enough there is no more reward and the behaviour is a part of them.
Same goes for people. In order to make something become automatic, we will need to apply the same methods. Here are the ingredients you need to create habits, complete actions and in turn achieve your goals.
Choose a routine
“Indecision is the greatest thief of opportunity.” – Jim Rohn
First of all, choose something you want or need to do and stick with it. Being indecisive is the enemy here. Do not decide to change your whole life with this little exercise. Choose one thing at a time and stick to that thing. Maybe it is going for a run after work once a week? Maybe it is stopping to use electronic devices in the evening?
Whatever you choose, stick with it until the habit is formed. There is nothing more disappointing than putting efforts into doing something that ends up not working. So, let’s make it work and stick with one thing.
Find your cue
For whatever you want to do, find a cue; a signal that will happen and when it does, you will start doing the routine you chose.
If you want to go for a run in the evening, leave the shoes by the entrance door – when you come home after work, you see the shoes: that is your cue! It is important that you get the cue only at the moment the routine must be triggered. If you want to go on runs on Tuesday but you see the shoes on Monday and do not go, the worth of the cue is undermined. Make sure the cue happens only when you need the routine to be triggered.
The most important part is the reward. The reward is what ultimately creates the habit – no reward, no habit.
A reward can range from enjoying food that you rarely have, to having a glass of your favourite drink, to watching a movie, to your body feeling awesome, to whatever you would like to do. Go on and reward yourself for having completed the routine!
What is important is to use the reward you choose just for that moment and never use it any other time, so find something you really like that you will not have any other time of the week. Sushi, pizza, cheese, red wine, latest Marvel movie, scented candle, a little tap on the back, a post of what you did on social media or just feel great – whatever works for you!
Now do it!
You want to. You know it is going to improve your life, so just do it and do not procrastinate. At first, it will be difficult, you will see the cue and have to trigger that routine manually and consciously, but in no time it will just become automatic. Trust the power of habits.
You already have habits, and they are so difficult to get out of, which is why they are so powerful. When you go home, what is the first thing you do? What about when you get to work? What if you cannot do your normal routine when you go home or go to work? It seems difficult and actually rather annoying; in some cases, it even feels impossible. By learning about habits, you can learn more than just being able to do something you usually would not want to be doing. You can explore your mind and why things happen the way they do inside of it. Would you like to learn more about how powerful habits are and how they shape your life? Read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
Here are a few examples of cues and rewards for some common routines. Remember to use cues and rewards just for the one time you need to do that routine. If the cue happens when you do not complete the routine, you let yourself and your habit creation process down. If you use the reward after not completing the routine, the reward loses its value. Do it right, stick with it!
- Run after work once a week
- Cue: see running shoes upon entering home
- Routine: change and go on your run
- Reward: your favourite food
- Stop using electronic devices before bed
- Cue: alarm at 10pm
- Routine: set your alarm on your phone for the next day, put your phone out of sight on Do Not Disturb mode and away from your bed, close your laptop and start meditating or read your book
- Reward: having a deeper, more peaceful sleep and a better tomorrow (still feeling fatigued? Maybe you need to change your morning routine to own your day)
- Start working immediately
- Cue: logging in to your work computer
- Routine: check emails and open stuff to be ready to work
- Reward: make yourself your nice first coffee of the day
What routine would you like to start? We can find you a cue and a reward right now.