When I read The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, he explained how science shows habits are made, even by people with brain damage due to surgery.
It’s different than what public perseption leads us to imagine. Willpower is something that gets depleated from the actions of the day, it’s not infinate, some people do have more, but it is trainable.
The book describes, 1. Cue, 2. Routine, 3. Reward, but in the appendix describes a process for how to check if the habit process needs to be adjusted.
I’ve tried the method described by the book of noting how the habit is going, and tweaking any of those three ingredients.
Later I came across another habit change system from Coach.Me:
1. Start with Assessment. What is the person’s larger goal and why? What do they expect from their coach? You need this assessment in order to identify and initial practice and to be able to personalize your coaching.
2. Use the assessment to move on to Habituation. Find a regular practice that will support your client’s larger goal. Then focus on building consistency.
3. Once there is consistency, you can work on Growth. This where you can expand the difficulty of the practice, build skills, identify and solve challenges, and introduce optimizations.
4. You and your client should look for Graduation milestones where you can re-assess and either end the coaching relationship or restart the momentum cycle based on what you and your client learned the first time through. It’s much better to do multiple trips through the Momentum Cycle than it is to be bogged down in one phase.
I also learned there were some internal, kind of “invisible steps” that happened along the way.
My process has become the combination of cue-routine-reward and the momentum framework with some other mindfullness steps. I don’t like to make it longer, but I feel like I’d rather have it have as many steps that it needs to work.
). Evalutaion, when I think about something for the first time in a deeper way, there are millions of thoughts everyday so it would be too hard to question everything and still get survival needs accomplished, but sometimes something calls the mind towards a habit or part of a life style or thought process, without that the whole thing can’t start. It’s the seed that has the potential to bloom, but not all seeds need to be planted in a given season of life, sometimes it’s not the right time to allocate resources towards the project.
1. Decide, it can be hard to decide, because sometimes the wanted data can’t be given to prove the choice will be safe or productive, so some choices are a leap of faith, not neccisarily 100% leap, but some kind of leap, ultimately the decision making is done on a best guess.
2. Plan, let’s say you want to live by cue, routine, reward, but they have to be picked in the planning step. Also thinking ahead of roadblocks and metrics for success may help. I like to make sure I align one of my values with the goal so that I don’t run out of meaning, the growth of the value can go a long way to make the drudgery seem like it has impact or value to me.
3. Cue, this can be a time like 8AM, or an alarm or a sequence of events like “when we are done with dinner”.
4. Routine, the is steps of what has to be done, “both my kids and I brush our teeth to the song “Eye of the Tiger” and we give my toddler a 1-10 point score so she can have fun with the game of “Tooth Brushing Competition”, we floss after brushing and then move on.
5. Reward, for my daughter it is “winning”, for my son it is “dancing to the song together as we brush” for me it is “not having to brush the kids teeth when I am already exausted right before sleep”.
6. Graduation, this is when the habit is solid, that means the reward doesn’t affect the habit anymore. It takes longer depending on how new the habit is, how natural it is, how aligned with the habit your nature is. Right now I am writing with no cookie, I didn’t take away my cookie for a month, because I prefer to leave the reward for longer than I feel it is needed rather than to have to redo the habit loop. It doesn’t need to be a cookie, but food works the best, it can be healthy food, but after about four years of making habit loops on myself and others I have noticed food is the strongest because it connects the body and mind to the goal rather than just the mind. Sometimes, like with brushing teeth, it’s not a good option. The reward is strongest closest to the activity so giving food the next day for teeth brushing today doesn’t work as well as a reward tonight.
7. Observe, this is “is it worth it?” “is it for me?” “what’s the next step?” Usually I like getting up at 5AM to write, but right now I wake up at 7AM, because when I get up my son wakes up and I would rather he get enough sleep. My husband comes home late, because his job lets him out late, my son loves playing with his dad. Sleep books say my son should be sleeping more than he is, so I don’t want to kill myself to make him sleep what a book says he should, but I also don’t want him to sleep less. So for me it isn’t worth it waking up early, because it wakes up my son, he gets less sleep, I get less sleep that way also, but I find I have an easier time falling asleep and sleep better if I wake up on my natural early cycle, so the main issue right now is my son’s sleep, which is pretty temporary I think.
A summary of my habit change system:
). Evalutaion, is this my best life? What do I have the resources and desire to change right now?
1. Decide, I usually want to do too many things, the least amount of changes the odds are they will have resources to succeed.
2. Plan, decide on a way to have a new cue, routine, reward that is possible today and upgrade it as possible, possibly plan a Plan A and Plan B and use Plan A until items for Plan B arrive.
3. Cue, usually just a hour for me like 7AM, 8AM, but alarms can work well too.
4. Routine, the more detailed the steps means no decisions have to be made on a “bad day” so it’s helpful to decide everything before hand and have it noted.
5. Reward, it really matters what you like, when habits don’t work this is usually the key issue.
6. Graduation, the good part of habits is yes you fall off, but each time you go through the cycle some of the past makes it easier, getting in shape the first time tends to be harder and the second time, a bit less ext.
7. Observe, this is “is it worth it?” “is it for me?” “what’s the next step?” Some time just doing all the things that sound good make your life worse if it costs you something like family harmony or your own well being, sometimes a habit that is good at one time is not at another, it’s important to check if it’s worth it. Not just putting a latter on a building, but putting it on “the burning building” this is the difference between management and leadership.