In this last segment dealing with Habits, you have probably figured out that there are multiple ways to develop new and delete old habits. Just because one thing works for one person, doesn’t mean it will work for another. The willingness to try, that is the key.
The mere fact of trying something different is a change in behavior. As we have mentioned before, rewards are crucial part of habit formation. But, rewards can be setup to be more immediate or delayed. As humans, we naturally are drawn to the immediate rewards. Delayed gratification takes much more discipline. The brain loves the instant gratification. It loves the feeling of pleasure, but typically the feeling doesn’t last long and the possible ramification are very much delayed.
Some examples include:
- Working today to get paid next week/month
- Working out today to be less overweight later in the year
- Saving for retirement
These are things that we obviously want the gratification of right now, but it takes time and discipline. A key aspect to remember is that anything that is immediately rewarded, gets repeated. Anything that is immediately punished, gets avoided.
Having used apps, paper, calendars, and just about anything else you can think of to track things, I have tried many things for tracking my habits. Parts of me fully enjoys and embraces the digital life, but some parts still longs for the analog. An interesting read about that can be found here.
For years I would create a list of things I wanted to do daily. Listing them out on the left hand side of my notebook, then across the top would list the days of the month and would create an analog version of a spreadsheet. Each day that a task was completed, the block would be filled in. I could see where I missed and how many days in a row I had completed it. In essence, using Jerry Seinfeld’s method of “not breaking the chain.”
I still do this today, and am using a pocket notebook , in hopes of having it with me as a physical reminder. But this method can be used in any variation. It can be in apps, in a list, or a notation on your calendar. Some people have more success when things are game-ified, and this will allow for that. My recommendation is to try something for a few weeks to see how you like it. Be willing to try different methods to see what works best for you.
We all have them. They are unavoidable. Once they happen and you are in the middle of one, don’t let that be the domino that knocks all the others down. Remember you are tracking your habits and not breaking the chain. The key here…just show up. If you don’t feel like working out today because you had a bad day, just drive to the gym and walk inside. Even if that’s all you do. Terry Crews, the actor in Brooklyn Nine Nine, mentions that one of his strategies was just this same idea. He would walk in and sit there and look at a magazine some days. But the fact of going into the gym was better than not.
We need to remember that a bad workout, or something less than you had hoped for, is still better than doing nothing. Movement is medicine.
Some people have the ability to self motivate, others need the assistance from an outside source. Whatever the mechanism is, accountability works. Some popular accountability tactics:
Punishment – the idea is kind of like the swear jar…anytime you swear, you have to put a dollar in the jar. We have talked about making things difficult or unsatisfying, when you are trying to break a habit.
Contracts– Some people have gone as far as creating a contract with someone that if they fail at whatever they are trying to accomplish, they will have to pay $100/$500/ etc…something big enough to feel it.
Check ins– This could be a friend, a phone reminder, or part of a contract as well. Sometimes just knowing that someone will be asking you about your progress is enough motivation to keep at it.
Just as with our DNA, our strengths and weaknesses are unique to us individually. There are certain things that we are naturally drawn to as well. This could be something that piques our interest as well as something that we have a natural talent for. Shaq might have a desire to become a gold medal sprinter, and start working on habits to help him get faster. Although he can probably pick up speed, his build is not designed for that. Just like a gold medal sprinter probably isn’t designed to be an All Star in the NBA.
Taking personality tests can help guide what you might be good at. Gallup’s, StrengthFinder, has also been a good tool to utilize.
Having always heard, and it makes since, that we need to lean into our strengths and maximize those as opposed to trying to improve our weaknesses. They are our weaknesses for a reason and we will gave a greater return from our strengths.
What are you good at? What are you interested in? How can you start incorporating those into your habits? Remember, just because something worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will give you the same results. You must do some self reflecting to better understand yourself. Boiling water will soften a potato, but will harden an egg.
As we wrap up our Habits discussion, some key pieces of information still awaits us. Remember, when making changes, it should be hard enough to be worth the effort, but not too easy that its easily brushed aside. As you move through putting in your reps and delaying gratification for a future date, things could get boring. That’s ok. Boredom is your friend. Learn to love it and embrace it. Be self aware. With your personality and surroundings. Be like water, always moving and adaptable to a changing environment, but never changing who you are.
Your success is not a destination. It is a journey. You will learn a tremendous amount along the way. Even if you fail, remember there is winning and learning….never losing. Pick yourself back up and get back at it, because on this journey towards success there is no finish line to cross…only a better you waiting to be found.