Habit is the invisible architecture of every day life. The difference between success and failure is often the sum of the actions we perform on a regular basis. Knowing the difference between good habits and bad ones isn’t the issue.
Spot the odd one out…
a) Brushing your teeth.
b) Going to the gym frequently.
c) Eating a chocolate-iced Krispy Kreme donut with extra custard filling for breakfast every morning washed down with a grande caramel macchiato.
d) Regular health checks.
Maintain a, b and d on a regular basis and you may get away with c (for a while at least) but get out of a daily KK habit and life will be better…. long term.
Walter Mischell’s famous marshmallow test asked children to forgo an instant treat for two treats a few minutes later. The kids who resisted temptation achieved more later in life, those who didn’t – less so.
Willpower is one way of establishing good habits. But if willpower isn’t your strong suit, here are a few strategies that might provide a shortcut…
1) Limit your decisions.
Writer John Tierney coined the phrase decision fatigue. This is the notion that we have a finite daily capacity to make decisions.
Tierney likens decision making to a muscle that tires with use. I have a friend who schedules (and pays) for her monthly yoga sessions in one hit. This means she doesn’t waste time wondering whether to go or not on a particular day. In turn this gives her increased focus to make decisions that actually matter.
2) Temptation Bundling
Often the hardest part of going for a run is going for a run. Temptation bundling gets you through the door. I love Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. It comes out twice a week and is around 90 minutes long. I can easily be tempted to listen to it when I should be doing something else. I’m also not mad about exercising first thing on a winter’s morning and am highly tempted not to bother.
And so I trade each temptation off against the other – the only time I can listen to WTF is if I’m running and vice-versa. Often I find myself taking an extra lap around the park, if I haven’t finished a particular episode.
Okay, it happened once…
3) Reframing (aka Switch the Story)
Habits give birth to stories and stories reinforce habits. In my experience nowhere does this happen more than on sales teams. A story is essentially a series of causal links. If we do this then this will happen…. We’ve always done this so there’s no point in trying that… Everyone knows that cold calling is pointless… And so it goes.
Stemming from the work of Aaron T Beck and Albert Ellis, Cognitive Behavioural Coaching (CBC) is around challenging the evidential veracity of stories. When coaching teams (and individuals) often this where we begin. Only when people let go of old stories can they dispense with retrograde habits and form new strategies.
4) Accountability & Consequence
Two light words that make you instinctively feel good?
Me neither. But you can make them work for you…
Public accountability is the process of informing the world that, come hell or high water, you will achieve X task by Y date. And with more ways to tell the world stuff than we’ve ever had before, that isn’t too much of a challenge.
That’s the accountability bit. The consequence part is putting some financial skin in the game by pledging money to an organisation you like if you achieve your goal… or doing the same to an organisation you loathe if you don’t.
You can go either way if you visit www.stickk.com
Traditional wisdom has it that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Traditional wisdom is probably wrong. Research by Pippa Lalley of UCL concluded that it can take anything between 18 and 254 days with a mean figure of 66.
So, good luck with your New Year’s resolutions and roll on March….