The foundation of your life is your habits.
Habits are merely choices that have become automatic. Such as reading before bed, making your morning tea, praying before bed, or brushing your teeth. Most of these habits have rewards that make them worth doing. The small act of brushing your teeth keeps you from smelling, and saves you pain and money. The small act of eating breakfast keeps you alive.
Small investment = big payoff.
This is the key to lasting change. You must make a small investment that leads to a jackpot. It can’t hurt. It’s easy to take a bit out of your paycheck each month if you know it will grow and you’ll retire early. It’s very little sacrifice compared to the reward.
As a kid in my early twenties looking for a spouse, I was easily able to sacrifice some time and energy in the gym for some abs and pecs in exchange for the possibility of attracting a beautiful supermodel. I’m not saying that habit stuck forever, but it served it’s purpose… my wife is hot! Most good habits have a significant payoff.
Developing life changing habits is an easy task if you do these three things:
1. Go back to your Why.
When you become clear on your “Why” many choices are made for you. Simon Sinek has been so instrumental with turning our attention to the importance of developing our personal Why’s. Your personal Why should be so big that your HOW takes care of itself.
For instance, you could have 50 doctors tell you to exercise and you may never take action. But, if your daughter approaches you with a tearful plea that she wants you to be around to walk her down the aisle, exercise is highly likely to take place! “How” will no longer be a roadblock.
Imagine if you had this kind of motivation for every situation. It’s up to you to create it.
2. Make your habits easy.
B.J. Fogg of Stanford University developed a philosophy called ‘Tiny Habits.” The premise is any behavioral change focuses around three things: motivation, ability, and a trigger. This way of creating habits is painless and actually pretty fun.
This is about ADDING behaviors not QUITTING them. My personal philosophy is to start with adding good stuff into your life. When you keep adding the good stuff you start to see the bad stuff more clearly, making it easier to eliminate. If you have the belief that if something isn’t hard then it’s not beneficial, get rid of it. If making these changes is hard then you’re doing it wrong and it won’t work.
How to apply B.J. Fogg’s “Tiny Habits” to your life:
First, pick a habit. Make sure it’s one you want to start or have started and quit multiple times. (We’ve all done it!) Examples: running, healthy eating, writing, reading, being nicer to your family, etc. Let’s say this new habit you want to form is riding your bike everyday for 10 miles.
That’s great, but don’t start there. Start with an associated outcome that’s ridiculously easy. When I say easy, I mean that the act of completing the task can’t cause you one ounce of discomfort. Put on your bike shoes, sit on your bike, or just look at it.
Second, find a place for your new habit. This is the “trigger” portion of creating the habit. A trigger is an existing habit that you already have that you do EVERY day, not most days, every day. Take your new habit and do it AFTER your existing habit. With the bike example, if you eat breakfast everyday at 7:00 a.m., put on your bike shoes and stare at your bike immediately after you finish.
Eventually, this tiny habit will grow into multiple tiny habits like putting on your shoes, getting on your bike and riding around the block. Next you’ll repeat the process but instead of going around the block you’ll bike for a mile, moving forward until you’re completing the 10 mile bike ride before work, and actually enjoying yourself!
The last part of this technique in habit creation is the most important. Celebrate and feel good each time you perform your new habit. When you generate positive feelings with your habits they stick. Emotions create habits. Pick a genuine form of celebrating and do it EVERY TIME you do your habit. The dopamine and serotonin kick will create a good addiction to the behavior.
You may even choose to discontinue destructive habits. Once these tiny habits stick you can use them for triggers that you add other tiny habits to and before you know it most of your habits are generating momentum towards Narrowing your Gap.
3. Sometimes you just have to leave.
Some habits are unacceptable. You know the ones. These are usually really hard to break and cause pain to you and/or others. Narrowing the Gap becomes very difficult with the toll these habits take. Clarifying your Why can help and creating new tiny habits can put a dent in them.
Yet sometimes you just need to leave certain choices in the dust, no questions asked, no triggers necessary, just drop them.