In this post, Dave Braun’s Top 10 Success Habits, I introduce the book Power of Habit. This is a keystone book for me, meaning I re-read it every year, and it’s on my list to create a summary of it. (With full disclosure, the below is an affiliate link).
- A cue occurs
- We go into a routine, often times unconsciously
- We get a reward
- Rinse and repeat
(Some extra great resources that he provides are on his website: http://charlesduhigg.com/additional-resources/)
This habit loop affects us personally, professionally, and in any organization with which we’re associated.
In his book he gives a great example of how he personally BROKE a habit. This habit was eating too many cookies.
But do you know how to FORM a habit?
Turns out, the same things apply, but instead of needing to diagnose our habit, breaking it down into the causes, we have to create the causes.
How to Form a Habit
When it comes to a habit we want to form, here’s what we know:
- The routine.
What we partially know:
- The rewards.
What we DON’T know:
- The cue.
Several months ago, I was advised by my friend and business partner, Larry Broughton, to establish a gratitude journal.
This meant every day to write down a couple of things I was grateful for that day.
Sounds like I needed to learn how to form a habit.
In the book, the framework goes like this:
- Identify the routine
- Experiment with rewards
- Isolate the cue
- Have a plan
What worked for me is an altered framework:
- Identify the routine to establish
- Be VERY clear on the rewards received from it, and engage emotions
- Create a cue
- Track your results
- Experiment with different rewards and cues.
So let’s go through these step by step.
And although in this process I started with the routine, you can start with the reward you want, decide on the routine that will get you there, and create the cue. (if you want to look at creating routines, a helpful post is How to Achieve Goals Using Lead and Lag Measures.
1. Identify the routine to establish
For my example, I’ve already got that down. Each day writing in a journal a few things I’m thankful for.
2. Be VERY clear on the rewards
I’m generally a positive person, but I wanted
- to be more positive, and to have more of an attitude of gratefulness in my life.
- to achieve more and enjoy my day more.
- have more emotional and spiritual energy.
and I knew if I could keep going with it, I’d have all of that and more.
You can see how I engaged two of the four energies we have as human beings (physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional), and although my rewards weren’t that tangible, feeling better and having a higher level of happiness was huge for me.
3. Create a cue
Here’s where the experimentation can begin.
Because in Mr. Duhigg’s book, he points out that experiments have shown that almost all habitual cues fit into one of these categories
- Emotional State
- Other People
- Immediately Preceding Action
And if the cue you choose has more than one of those, all the better!
Since this was going to be a daily habit for me, I needed something that I knew I’d do every day or would occur every day. Possible cues for this are then
- going to sleep
- waking up
- brushing teeth
- taking a shower
- eating a particular meal
- a time of the day
- traveling to work
- You get the idea.
I ended up choosing the act of when my butt hits the edge of the bed at night. I’d then grab my tablet or phone and right then do my journaling.
So you can see this fills the “Immediately Preceding Action” and “Location” categories. Location isn’t always the same since we go on vacation sometimes (and it turns out that was when I didn’t do the habit the most).
4. Track Your Results
I have a weekly checklist of things I do on a weekly/daily basis, and I added it in there. My goal was to do 5 days a week to start with.
Here’s a key point: Just because you miss, or aren’t immediately successful, don’t give up. Just get back on the horse!
- I did 3 days in a row, then missed a day!
- Just over a month later, I missed 3 days in a row when on vacation!
And this is why you track your results. You can identify what happened and make any corrections.
Here’s what my success rate looked like by monthly percentage:
5. Experiment with different rewards and cues
I shifted my cue to be more when I went to bed at night versus envisioning when my butt hit the edge of our bed at home, since when we weren’t home that was when I skipped the routine, because the cue wasn’t there.
And along the way, I discovered one of the great rewards was on occasion to going back to my journal and simply reading all the things I was grateful for, especially when being a little down, and wow, did I ever perk up!
Final Thoughts on How to Form a Habit
One of the sayings I repeat to myself and others is “Seek Progress, not Perfection”.
Remember that as you create habits in your life!
Don’t look down when you mess up; instead, look up.Dave Braun