Jan 29 2020
It’s only late January, but I’m already feeling the gravity-like pull of old habits and routines taking me away from the New Year’s resolutions I committed to a few short weeks ago. I’ve read books on how to create beneficial habits and improve self-discipline, but apparently understanding the psychology of it all doesn’t transform me into a habit-creating doyenne. It seems I actually have to work at it. How irritating.
In case this is helpful to others who are already falling off the resolution wagon, here are some tips I’ve gleaned from Patrik Edblad, author of The Habit Blueprint and The Self-Discipline Blueprint, to get things back on track.
The Ingredients of Successful Habits
Edblad says there are three parts to successful habit-forming.
- A cue — The trigger that starts your habit. Example: You get an email notification.
- A routine — The habit that follows the cue. Example: You open the email.
- A reward — The benefit you gain from doing the habit. Example: You get to know what the email is about.
He makes a great argument for working with human nature, rather than trying to overcome it, by creating a reward feedback loop as part of the new habit. Most of us respond well to rewards.
To make progress toward a goal, step one is to get specific. Rather than, “I’m going to improve my diet,” the goal should be more like, “I will replace my after-lunch candy bar with an orange and two-squares of dark chocolate.”
Then, he suggests using if-then statements as cues to trigger your brain into responding properly. If [situational cue], then I will [planned response to the cue]. For example, if I want something sweet, then I will eat a piece of fruit. Is this fool-proof? Of course not, but it is helpful.
Finally, celebrate success along the way. By celebrating progress, you give yourself credit for your hard work and for moving in the right direction.
Start With Easy Wins
Another excellent piece of advice from Edblad is to start new habits by setting the bar low enough to assure success. Originally, my New Year’s resolution was to get up an hour earlier to work on my book each morning. By changing my waking time, I wouldn’t get another hour in the day, but I would get a better hour. I’m clearer in the morning. I think better.
But guess what: it’s cold and dark at 5:00 am, and the alarm wakes my husband. So, I have two options–either enlist my husband in the get-up-early plan or figure out a different time to write. I won’t give up the overall goal of publishing my book, but I may need to change my timeline and/or my methods for doing so. As long as we hold onto our big goals and continue to move toward them, it’s a win in my opinion.
Don’t Wait for No-Show Muse
Those who wait for inspiration to strike before getting to work sometimes wait for a really, really long time, getting nothing done in the meantime. Discipline and consistency are less sexy than overnight success, but they are also a far more reliable predictor of success–even if it takes a bit longer. Waiting for luck or motivation or your muse leaves success up to exterior forces. Why not put your success into your own capable hands? Set a BIG goal. Break it down into small, achievable mini-goals, and then start plugging away. It’s like a drip of water. Each drip may not seem like much, but eventually, it can carve stone.