Make your move
We often wait until the planets are aligned perfectly before starting a new plan.
Or we choose symbolic times like New Year’s Day to morph into our new selves.
I say: “Why wait”?
Here’s something you can do now, without having to wait until Sunday.
Choose a very small action you can take (if not immediately, then before this day is out) that will move you ever so slightly in the direction you really want to go.
The folks at the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford, led by B.J. Fogg, suggest that creating new habits might best be accomplished by linking the tiniest of behaviors with things we already do every day- turning on the coffee, getting in the car, flushing the toilet, checking our messages, etc.
When they talk about tiny they really mean tiny, defined as something which can be done in 30 seconds or less. Makes sense, right? Anything requiring more than a half minute’s effort is much less likely to be done in the first place and replicated over the long term, i.e., become a habit.
The rationale for linking a new activity with an existing behavior is not complicated. In the course of doing the familiar, we create an accompanying behavior which gets repeated often, to the point of becoming routine. And voila, a desired habit is born.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you’ve thought about lifting weights because you’ve heard doing so will help offset the loss of bone density and muscle mass you experience as you age (you’d be right).
You’ve thought about it a lot but never got around to figuring out how to incorporate weight work into your daily regimen.
Using the baby step approach, after starting the coffee maker each morning (choose a different example, if you wish) you decide you will pick up those dumb bells collecting dust in your spare room and do 5 curls with each arm.
It’s quick, easy and by doing it multiple times a day (if you pair it with something you do often, like checking your phone, for example), you reinforce a behavior you’ve been wanting to do for years.
Will doing a few reps with weights several times a day make a dramatic difference in your health? Probably not.
Will it help you overcome a certain inertia and kick start a healthy habit that can grow over time? Most certainly yes.
One last thing. Fogg and his team suggest it helps to give yourself a little shout out each time you complete your new behavior. A hardy ‘yahoo’ or equally emphatic utterance can have the effect of anchoring the feeling of success.
And the more we succeed, the greater our desire to want (and do) more of the same; ingredients of a nice, upward spiral, for sure.
I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know how it works for you.
Here’s to a great new year ahead for you and yours!