There is a simple, 3 step cycle that every habit follows. It’s been proven time and time again by just about every behavioural psychologist out there. The cycle is called the “3 R’s of Habit Change”.
- Reminder (the trigger that initiates the behaviour)
- Routine (the actual behaviour you perform)
- Reward (the benefit from doing the behaviour)
Let’s take a look at the 3 R’s in action with a real life example.
Reminder. Your doorbell rings. This is the prompt that initiates your behaviour. The sound produced by the doorbell acts as a trigger for you to get up and answer the door.
Routine. You see who’s at the door. This is the actual behaviour being performed. Typically, when the doorbell rings, you get up to answer it. This is a habit you have formed over repeated experiences throughout your life.
Reward. You find out who’s at the door. Your reward is the benefit you received from doing the behaviour. In this example, you satisfy your curiosity of wondering who is at the door.
Doing this enough times with a positive reward (i.e. the mailman with a package for you and not someone to kidnap you) and you form a positive feedback loop in your brain. Basically, you learn that the next time the doorbell rings, you should answer it.
This is how a single behaviour is turned into an autonomous habit over time.
21 days to break a habit but effective coaching tools quicker.
Now that you understand the science of how habits work, it’s time to learn how to apply them and start forming new habits.
Step 1. Pick a trigger for your new habit
If you want to form a new habit, first you have to identify the trigger that the desired behaviour will follow.
Rather than doing what most people do and rely on will power to start a behaviour, we’re going to take a different approach.
Relying on motivation for forming new habits is not enough. Motivation comes and goes, which is why top performers don’t manage it when it comes to success. Instead, they make it super easy to start new habits by including them into daily activities they already perform.
This takes the inconsistency of motivation out of the equation and allows you to form consistent habits.
For example, say you want to start meditating 5 minutes each day. You could try randomly inserting it into your routine, or you could tie it with a behaviour that’s already a part of your daily activities (say brushing your teeth). This lets the trigger for your new behaviour be something you already do without thinking about it.
Wake up, brush your teeth, then start meditating for 5 minutes. You don’t have to randomly muster up the willpower to meditate each day, it’s something that you just start doing immediately after brushing your teeth.
Step 2. Make your habits incredibly easy to start and impossible to fail
We all feel the urge to do too much, too soon after getting psyched up about a new goal. New Years resolutions come to mind? But actually achieving your goals is less about the result and all about the day-to-day habits that make it a reality.
So then, the question becomes “how do we make sure we do the necessary behaviours on a consistent basis?”
Answer: you make it incredibly easy.
Starting an activity is the hardest thing about getting something done. Once you get started, it’s actually much easier to keep going and finish.
For example, let’s say you wanted to start running on a daily basis. You tell yourself that you’re going to run 2 miles every day. For most, that probably seems like a daunting task. Instead, tell yourself that you’ll simply get out of the house and run down the street. If you do, then it’s a successful day. Chances are that once you get out and start running, you’ll want to keep going.
And even if you don’t, at least you accomplished your goal of running down the street. Small steps!
Performance isn’t something you need to worry about in the beginning. The important thing is just getting out there and doing the new behaviour. Later on once it’s become an automatic habit, you can scale up the level of performance to your desire.
Step 3. Reward yourself
Last but not least, the habit cycle wouldn’t be complete without a prize at the end. If there’s not an immediate positive result that follows your behaviour, chances are you probably won’t stick with it (no matter how big the pay off later on). We want to keep doing things that make us feel good now.
That’s why it’s important to always celebrate and praise yourself after successfully practicing your habit.
One way to do this is with positive self-talk. A simple “great job, Jason!” can go a long way. If you’re not used to it, this will probably seem weird at first, but trust me, it helps. Praise yourself like you would a child or a friend.
Another way is tell a partner (spouse, friend, who ever) and have them cheer you on. People love helping others out and making them feel good, especially when it’s someone near and dear to their heart. Have fun with it in any way you can.
Now, if there was only some way to stick with your newly forming habits even when life keeps getting in the way…Get in touch, I’d love to help embed a long lasting healthy habit and cheer you on! 😊