In line with FBF Collective’s last blog - Is Dry Jan Overrated? - we’re continuing with the theme of long-lasting habit change. In this two-part series we’re breaking down how to form a habit; beginning with the art of showing up, and crafting your own environment that will harness success.
It’s very easy to start too big when you’re trying to implement a new habit - your motivation is high, and convinces you to do too much, too soon. Even when you know you should start small, it’s still easy to start too big. So, we’re going to strip it right back…
In the words of James Clear (Atomic Habits), “a habit must be established before it can be improved”. You essentially need to master the basic habit of showing up, before even considering confronting the finer details. So instead of trying to engineer the perfect habit from the start, do the easy thing on a more consistent basis. You want it to feel as easy and automatic as brushing your teeth.
- “Walk 10,000 steps everyday” becomes “Walk for 10 minutes everyday”
- “Drink two litres of water a day” becomes “Fill up a water bottle each morning”
- “Eating three different vegetables a day” becomes “Add one vegetable to my plate at mealtimes”
- “Workout at the gym 5x a week” becomes “Turn up at the gym 5x a week”
In the beginning, it is far more important to make small actions towards your end goal. We feel good when we achieve small things consistently, which will help you continue a forward trajectory towards your end goal.
Designing Your Environment for Success
If you want to make a habit a big part of your life (and be able to implement it), you need to make the cue a big part of your environment. Make sure the choice you want to make is the most obvious one. In the long-run (and often in the short-run), your willpower will not beat your environment.
You can alter the spaces where you live and work to increase your exposure to positive cues. Making a better decision is much easier when the cues for good habits are right in front of you.
- If you want to remember to refill your water bottle every time it’s more than halfway empty, use a Sharpie to draw a small line at the halfway mark on the water bottle.
- If you want to remember to write in your journal for five minutes at 7am, place your journal on the kitchen table so you see it when you sit down for breakfast every morning, or on your desk before you sit down to start work.
- If you want to remember to read a book instead of looking at your phone every time you’re bored, set your phone’s lock screen photo to be a photo of the book you’re trying to finish, or if you want to read before bed and not scroll on your phone, leave your phone downstairs.
- If you want to remember to go for a run every morning, lay out your workout clothes and shoes the night before, and set your alarm for the correct time.
Harvard Professor and author of The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, reminds us to use ‘the path of least resistance’ to increase our chances of sustaining a certain desirable behaviour. Like with the implementation intentions mentioned above, the less effort our brain needs to put into taking the first step, the better.
Priming Your Environment
This adds one more layer: by organising your environment for its intended purpose you are priming it to make your future actions easier.
- Want to meditate/stretch more? Set up a comfortable, quiet place in your home where you practice meditation.
- Want to sleep better and develop a wind-down routine? Move your phone charger out of the bedroom and place a white noise machine, your favourite candle, and a couple of books on your nightstand.
- Trying to cut down on a particular food or drink from your diet? Remove it from the house and replace it with a healthier alternative.
Stay tuned for the part 2 next week, where we discuss combatting fading motivation and rewards for habit satisfaction!