As we start a new year, some of us will make resolutions, others will refute the concept and decline to participate in the annual ritual of forming resolutions that will soon be broken. Regardless of what camp you are in – consider habits as an alternative to traditional resolutions. Look at opportunities to create new habits or replace old habits with new and improved habits.
Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit describes habits as the cycle of cues, routines, and rewards.
- Cues – A habit starts with a trigger in our environment, it could be the time of day, something we see, an emotion like hunger or boredom, or a route we take.
- Routine – This could be what we do, what we eat, what we say, or how we react. This is when we go into auto-pilot often without any thought at all.
- Reward – The final step is the reward, or the benefit we get from the habit. It could be a feeling, or something accomplished.
Give some thought to what habits you want to create this year. Then build cues and rewards around the habit you want to form. If you want to walk more, put your walking shoes near the dog leash. This builds a visual cue each time the dog needs to go out.
Also think about the habits you want to replace with better habits, then start to notice the cues that trigger the habit you want to change. Once you notice the cues then you can begin to replace one routine for another. For example, if you want to replace smartphone surfing with reading, then notice the triggers – every time you find yourself getting bored or waiting you turn to your phone for entertainment (aka, the reward). Now that you know the triggers you can insert reading material in strategic locations where this is likely to occur.
Remember when an activity becomes a habit, we start to anticipate the reward based on the cue and then the routine is almost unstoppable.
YOUR CHALLENGE: Consider what habits are getting you what you want and which ones should be replaced and take them head on this year.
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