I’ve been reading about habits and the science and psychology of why breaking bad habits and creating new habits is so hard. It turns out that habits have triggers, actions, and rewards. Knowing this is the key to success. Sounds simple, right? Well, the challenge is in identifying the trigger, the action, and the reward. Here’s an example: the alarm goes off (trigger). You go to the kitchen to make coffee (action). You drink the coffee, get the boost and enjoy the moment when it’s just you and the coffee (reward). The good news is that you can insert a new habit during the reward phase. So, in this case, you could start reading a book while you enjoy the coffee. Pretty soon you will associate reading with rewards and whenever you have coffee you will probably want to read. That will lead to more reading and voila, you have a new positive habit.
I’ve been working out with a trainer for 2 years now. Same trainer. Same gym. Same routine every week: upper body on Monday. Lower body on Tuesday. Free weights on Wednesday. Back to upper body on Thursday and lower body on Friday. And of course cardio every day (!). It was not easy at first and I had to convince myself to go to the gym and workout despite the soreness. Despite not getting enough sleep the night before and just wanting to stay in bed and pull the covers over my head. Now it’s habit and thanks to my newfound understanding of habits I can share this tidbit with you: my trigger is I want to be stronger and more flexible. The action is the gym routine. And my reward is my gorgeous –inside and out—trainer Julio.
Julio has seen me through my husband’s illness and death and through the tumultuous year of transition into widowhood. He has been at the gym all those weeks welcoming me and understanding when to push and when to pull back. He calls me “la senora de la sonrisa” – the lady with the smile—and he gives the best bear hugs and encouraging shoulder pats every single time I go to the gym. Oh, and he has the most unbelievable collection of tennis shoes—probably his reward (?). The pink pair in the photo brought a big smile to my face this morning when he told me they were in honor of Halloween. Yeah, I’m not sure of the connection but they are the most delicious shade of pink!
So, what’s your trigger/action/reward?
What habit are you trying to create? Start with baby steps and identify a reward and then pretty soon you will be able to stack actions that will lead to great habits on that reward…