Habits are funny things.
They can be thoughts, emotions or behaviours, and negative habits are easily acquired but difficult to budge, despite our often unsuccessful efforts to banish the naughty little blighters.
However, knowing the precise make up of a habit allows us to create and reinforce positive patterns that we wish to repeat in the future.
All habits consist of a three part cycle.
1) The Trigger
2) The Routine
3) The Result (or Reward)
The trigger is an event that fires the habit into motion, the routine is the behaviour, emotion or thought that you perform, and the result is the benefit associated with the routine.
Any action performed repeatedly becomes cast into a pattern. This pattern can then be made again and again with an equal economy of effort.
So how does positive habit creation work in practice?
Let’s say I’m sedentary and would like to do 30 minutes of cardio every weekday. I decide to start small and do 20 minutes per weekday for 2 weeks, and then expand it to 30 minutes when my body is better tuned. I’m also going to make it easy by laying out my kit the night before.
First I need to decide on a trigger. Time or location are great for this. I decide to set my alarm 30 minutes early, at 5.30am.
When the alarm goes off I put on my shorts and trainers and head straight out the door. I set my watch on 20 minutes countdown and jog away from my house for 13 minutes. Then I jog back towards home for 7 minutes a little faster, followed by 5 minutes of walking as a cool down. I’m back in the house and jumping in the shower at 6am, invigorated, clear headed and looking forward to breakfast.
After 2 weeks the habit is forming and I look forward to the run each day. I now set my alarm for 5.20am and plan the run accordingly for the new time scale.
So my morning alarm is the trigger, the run is the routine, and the great feeling of satisfaction I have afterwards is the reward.
Positive practices take time and energy to become habitual - it is thought that 80 days is the optimum period for habitualization. Therefore it’s important that you reinforce the process until it is second nature.
In the next post we will look at banishing those pesky negative habits.
Oh and don’t confuse habits with willpower - that’s something else we’ll discuss soon.