If you have read many of the posts here on this blog or are reading my book or are taking part in my 90 Day Program, you’ll know I advocate Habits.
Habits are a key tool in getting you from A – B in any part of your life. But, how do you create a habit in the first place?
There are many ways, but here are just two:
#1 Create an incentive
#2 Create a reward
You’d be forgiven for thinking they are one and the same thing but they’re not.
Let’s say you want to go to the gym on a regular basis to get your fitness levels back up or to lose weight or to generally buff yourself up. If you’re like me you might find the gym is boring. If that was the case I’d probably advise you do something else, but for the example let’s continue with the gym analogy.
You sign up for a 6 month term and decide you want to go every other day and for the first couple of weeks you stick with it – it’s new after all, and that in itself can be the incentive and reward. After a while though you may find yourself too busy or too tired or too stressed to go as often. Before long you’re down to once a week then once a fortnight.
Here’s what you can do, start with your incentive. (If you can’t get yourself to even go, you’ll not qualify for your reward, right.) So take your iPod and load it with the music that really gets you pumped up – this is going to get you into the right state of mind. Alternatively, if you like audio books or other audio products load it with them. Do NOT allow yourself to listen to those things unless you are at the gym. Not in the car, not at work, not lounging around the house. ONLY at the gym. My other half Em had a good idea on this too, most gyms have the TV on the running machines which you hook your earphones into. Simply time your gym visit with something you love to watch on the TV – again make it a rule you cannot watch that programme anywhere else. This is not a new suggestion, but the key here is – exclusivity! That way you look forward to the gym because you look forward to the other activity you do whilst at the gym.
Now you have an incentive.
Every time you go to the gym from then on take time afterwards to go to the café and have a relaxed drink, or spend half an hour reading your favourite magazine or newspaper. Try to save that treat for post gym visits too so you associate that pleasurable passtime with working out. Again, only do that after you’ve been to the gym, in order to create the association.
Now you have your reward.
Of course this will take some thought depending on what you want to make a habit out of. Whatever it is, look to see what could be your incentive, then look to see what your reward could be. Once your habit is embedded, you can gradually reduce the reward and continue without your incentive if you want or need to.
So the point of the post is – you don’t need to rely on your willpower alone to create a positive habit, you just need to understand what drives you and turn that into your incentive and reward to help you through the tough few weeks of creating that habit.
Hope that makes sense – be sure to leave a comment if you agree/disagree or want some help figuring out your own habit making.