An infinitely more successful way to achieve the goals you have for 2021!
We all want to change, it’s absolutely true. Even if we are self-proclaimed people who hate change, there is still going to be something in our life that we would like to do differently. We all want to be better at something – better parents, better friends, have better sleep, eat better food, do more activity, learn something new. Each and every one of us will harbour a desire to do something differently.
So, why don’t we just get on and do it? Why don’t we say to ourselves “of course it is best for me to exercise for 30 minutes a day” and then jolly well go outside and run around the block until we’re dizzy?
Because knowing what is good for us isn’t enough. It’s not our fault that it’s not enough. We need to be kind to ourselves and acknowledge that ‘knowing’ simply doesn’t press the buttons that humans have when it comes to motivation. So, what does press our motivational buttons?
What we need can be boiled down in to two main headings: Behaviour Design and Learning and Adapting.
This is the time to review the resolutions that you have put in place for 2021. You might have committed to things like:
“I’m going to do Dry January.”
“I’m going to go out for a walk every day.”
“I’m going to be kinder to more people.”
Consider reviewing these commitments in line with the behaviour design methodology of BJ Fogg, author of ‘Tiny Habits’. Everything you need to know is in that book, and to summarise it in a nutshell, we need to think about distilling our goal into something tiny and achievable. We need to make our goal so simple, and fast and make it so easy to do that there isn’t a reason to not do it. If our goal requires little effort, we’re obviously more likely to do it.
Weirdly, it is easier to create a big, complex goal than it is to write a specific, simple, achievable one. The examples above roll off our tongue but how do we create a behaviour that will mean that we won’t forget to do it, that won’t take effort or time, and won’t be easily avoidable at those crunch points when we want to give in and revert to our normal ways?
There is a recipe to help us create our simple goal. It’s as simple as this
- Anchor moment
Find an existing routine that inevitably happens in your day. There are loads: getting out of bed, brushing our teeth, making the first hot drink of the day, going to the loo, going to bed, picking up our phone, opening our laptop and so on.
- And then think of the new behaviour you want to develop. Chances are that it will be quite big, so simplify it, maybe several times, until it’s really, really small.
Then link the behaviour to an appropriate anchor and you’ll have something like this:
After I……..get out of bed, I will………put on my gym kit.
After I…..open my curtains, I will………make my bed.
After I …….brush my teeth, I will……do 2 squats.
After I……..fill the kettle, I will……. fill a glass of water.
After I…….open my laptop, I will……put a time in the diary for lunch today.
After I…….eat breakfast, I will…….load my breakfast dishes in to the dishwasher.
After I …..get in to bed, I will…….read 3 pages of a good book.
Planning your environment is key too – if you need to put your gym kit on, leave it by the side of your bed. If you are going to read a book, put it on the bedside table etc.
In time, when the habit is sticking, you’ll probably find that you end up doing more, either because you consciously tweak your behaviour to be a bit more challenging or unconsciously, you’ll just carry on with what you have started. Once you have read 3 pages, you’ll get hooked and maybe read 10. And this is how tiny habits work – you create the time and environment to do the small thing and it develops into something bigger.
Learning and Adapting
Even though I think this recipe is a great way to get going with a new habit, the real key is knowing what to do if it doesn’t go to plan.
Yesterday, I had 3 new habits and I didn’t do one! With the advent of home schooling, I literally forgot to squat when I switched on the kettle, forgot to spend 5 minutes breathing after lunch and forgot to read 5 pages after dinner. The absolute deal-breaker here is not to think you have failed, but to grasp the learning chance. I think the actions are fine, so I have tweaked my anchors. So, my habits today are to do the squats after I have put on my gym kit and do the reading once I sit down after putting my daughter to bed. The first one worked so I’m already doing better than yesterday!
There is so much more that can be said about Tiny Habits, so many more ways to help the new behaviours stick if you read the book of that title. I’ve really distilled it for this article (I’ve made it tiny so there is more chance that you’ll read it!) so there are loads of ways to deep dive into this method and become immersed / addicted like me!
So, if you have some personal New Year’s Resolutions, think about giving this method a go! Or if you are helping people around you – colleagues, your team etc – think with them about how they can adapt the goal to have a greater chance of success!