Title: Habit Forming
Activity: Decide on 3-6 habits you would like to form or goals you would like to achieve. Break down each habit or goal into a short title (e.g. meditate) and a short description (e.g. meditate for 10 minutes every day). Track each habit/goal every day for one month.
Science: Understanding the science behind habit forming is the first step to analyzing your own habits and figuring out how to implement or change them. Habits start with a “habit loop,” a three step process that involves a trigger (or cue), a routine, and a reward. A trigger may be going to a cafe or a certain time of day, a routine may be eating a brownie or going to the gym, and a reward may be the taste of dessert or release of endorphins. To form a habit, think about a habit loop that will work for you. To break a habit, first determine the trigger for the routine and then, using trial and error, start changing the routine to break the loop. For example, if every day at around 3pm you go out to smoke, try eating a snack, having a coffee, or socializing with a friend instead. It helps to think about what is it about 3pm that triggers the routine — is it related to boredom? Higher stress after recurring meetings? Getting hungry? It may take some time to pinpoint the exact triggers and routines that work for you.
Keep in mind, forming (or breaking) habits takes time. Most people have heard the myth that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Unfortunately, this isn’t really the case. In fact, updated research has shown that it can vary form 18 to 254 days depending on the task, the person, and the circumstances.
Results: I focused on the following six habits: 1) out of bed by 7:45 AM, 2) Meditate for 15 minutes, 3) Exercise, 4) 1+ hour of Spanish practice, 5) No phone before bed, and 6) Floss. I tracked my success rate for each habit every day and created a percentage score at the end of the month. [Results to be added].
- Technology helps: To help me keep track of my goals and progress, I downloaded and used the app “way of life” on a daily basis. I found myself more encouraged to complete each habit, knowing that I would feel better marking it complete.
- Some habits are easier than others: Science tells us that not all habits are formed in the same amount of time (see reference to the 21 day myth above). I have had no issue incorporating flossing into my daily routine and failed pretty miserably to wake up at 7:45am on a daily basis.
- Knowledge is power: After reading about habit forming on a daily basis, I realized I was applying the science behind habit loops to my life outside of this activity. For example, I realized I had a habit of ordering pastries every time I went to a cafe to work. I wasn’t particularly craving something sweet, I just did it out of habit. Upon realizing this, I was able to order healthier foods instead and leave the cafe much happier.
Next Steps: I plan to think about the habits most important to me (e.g. no phone before bed, exercising in the morning, and maintaining a healthy diet) and work on creating habit loops to automate the process. The more I can accomplish in 2017, the better off I’ll be in the future.
Duhigg, Charles. The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business. New York: Random House, 2012. Print.