Two Ways to Easily Build New Habits

Habits matter because they help you become the type of person you wish to be”- James Clear

Are you good at forming new habits or do things get in the way?

Establishing new habits can be life-changing.

Recently, my wife committed to a new regular habit. She is focusing on a goal to improve her health and fitness. To achieve that outcome she is attending gym classes every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. This is a big deal in this family. Hopes for success are high, yet there is a problem that has the potential to derail her goal.

With the gyms re-opening recently following Covid-19 there are new measures in place to ensure safety for one and all. One of those protocols requires you to register for classes you wish to attend. Numbers are limited and fill quickly; therefore timing is essential to register on-line to ensure your spot.

This is where my wife’s dilemma starts. She keeps forgetting to register for the following week and consequently misses out. The goal of transforming her health and happiness hangs in the balance.

What can she do?

Don’t let life get in the way

Sticking to a new habit can be challenging, because life, more often than not, gets in the way. We tend to get disheartened when our plans get disrupted in some way. Some small little thing, like forgetting to pre-book your class, can sabotage all the best efforts and plans.

So what can we do to form habits without the struggle?

The Feedback loop of Habits

If you’re having trouble changing habits, the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change”. James Clear- Atomic Habits

In his best-selling book, “Atomic Habits, “James Clear offers some interesting insights into habit building.

Results have very little to do with goals, but more to do with the systems or processes you put in place to follow. Processes can best be viewed as a series of habits. The purpose of every habit is to resolve problems in your life.

My wife’s sole focus on results is what is letting her down and causing a problem. She needs to make sure she addresses every small step needed to achieve the results.

Each step can be seen as a needed habit. And with each step there is a feedback loop of four stages made up of a problem and solution phase.

The Problem Phase is when you realise something needs to change. At this stage there is a cue and a craving for change.

The Solution Phase is when you take action and achieve the desired outcome. This stage includes the response and the reward.

A habit can only be mastered through a repeated behavioural response until it comes automatic.

How can my wife achieve that outcome?

Prime the environment to make actions easy

Human behaviour always follows the law of least resistance. We naturally gravitate towards actions and behaviours that need the least amount of work and effort.

All habits are triggered by a cue. We are more likely to notice a cue that stands out. If the cue is subtle or hidden they are easier to ignore.

By creating clear visual cues in our environment we can bring our attention towards the desired habit. When the friction is low the habit becomes easier to action.

How can we fine tune the environment to allow us to have full control?

Maybe these two strategies can help:

  1. Habit stacking
  2. Utilising technology

They’re so easy you will scarcely notice them.  Your life will be changed as a result, with very little disruption.

Habit Stacking

No behaviour happens in isolation. Each action becomes a cue that triggers the next behaviour”- James Clear

Habit stacking is recognised as one of the best ways to build a new habit. The concept is simple in principle. It creates rules that guide your future actions. You identify a current habit you already do and then stack your new behaviour on top.

Rather than associating a new habit with a time and location, you connect it with current habit behaviour. You are chaining numerous habits together. Each acts as a cue for the next. James Clear suggests: “Habit stacking works best when the cue is highly specific and immediately actionable”.

Taking this into consideration my wife has some options available. When she returns home after the gym class and takes off her gym shoes, or before showering, this action becomes her cue to book online the same class next week.

James Clear explains habit stacking works so well because you are “linking your new habits to a cycle that is already built into your brain”. 

Utilizing Technology

How often do you check your phone?

If you are similar to my wife, the smart phone is an accessory that is always in arms reach. It has become an automated behaviour checking notifications. Becoming aware and taking advantage of this habit can be a big help when trying to develop a new habit.

Using technology to automate your habits is the most reliable and effective way to guarantee the required behaviour. You create an environment of inevitability.

It’s simple, effortless and obvious.

The options how to use your mobile phone to remind you are endless. My wife could put a photo with a message on her phone’s lockscreen. For example, her message could say, “Book your class” or perhaps “Class Alert.”

When she checks her phone and notices this message, she slips effortlessly into her new habit. Alternatively, she could easily set an alarm reminder

If she does this a few times, she’ll be slipping into a new habit effortlessly. Soon she’ll be on your way to a healthy routine habit that could change her life.

As you can see, it’s not that hard to form a new habit. 

Now it’s your turn.

What has been your experience with building habits in the past? 

Did you encounter any specific challenges or obstacles?

Comment in the below box and let me know what you think!

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