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Goals Are Cute But Habits Are Key

A habit becomes powerful and accessible when we understand the importance of ALL things involved with the creation of said habit AND fall in love with the process of doing them.

Habit Loop

In conversation with my boyfriend, he was sharing with me how much he is enjoying the book he is currently reading: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. He explained that the author expresses his teachings in a psychology-based yet relatable manner which allows him to better apply what he is learning. While I have never read this book, nor ever read a book about habit formation, it was at this moment that I began to see the psychological aspect he (PJ) was speaking of and its existence very clearly in my life.

Whenever someone makes reference to my discipline, my response typically is, “that’s just the way I’m wired, I figure out what works for me and I stick to it”. Yet, it wasn’t until PJ started telling me about this book, that I was able to directly connect my discipline to my habits.  And, well, duh.. I’ve wired myself this way.

I have a strong tendency to lean into my discipline with an effort to expand my life because I’ve been rewarded for my habits. The discipline isn’t something that just appeared one day, it was a learned behavior through positive habit-forming.

During P’s paraphrasing of The Power of Habit, this story stuck out to me most: A man with no memory (or memory loss, please forgive me, I haven’t opened the book) could go for a walk and make it home or continued to pick up the same puzzle piece to a game during a doctors visit due to the pattern creation, not the memory, it sparked something in me! It wasn’t that he could “remember” how to get home, it was that he had done this walk enough that he could recognize it and use less mental effort to complete this task of walking.

I couldn’t help but think about all the shit I do to “eliminate obstacles”, as I call it. Far less classy than what Charles Duhigg refers to it as (or the physiological terminology) “cue, routine, reward”, but you get the point. Remove all the possibilities that could potentially hinder you from forming or completing a habit.  

The idea is, preparation for the habit begins with a small task (cue), the task being the eliminator of obstacles so the habit becomes second nature (routine), and will be continued when results are shown/felt/discovered (reward). Mini tasks prepare us (eliminating obstacles) for the routine that ultimately lead to reward by completing the habit: This is pattern recognition. For instance (terrible example but very easy to understand), a smoker will begin to feel the reward of smoking a cigarette simply by taking the pack out of their pocket and opening it.

Okay, maybe I’ve lost you, maybe I haven’t but now seems like a good spot to provide a real-life example to better paint this picture.

Daily exercise (the first big habit I reward myself with each day) is a #nonnegotiable for me. There are a million mini-tasks, seemingly unrelated to the physical act of exercising, that I take leading up to (cueing) exercising (habit).

Below is the full list of tasks that are a part of the obstacle elimination process. Note, these tasks begin the night before the morning of the habit.

1) set clothes out (both exercise clothes & clothes for the next workday)

2) fill water bottle that I workout with

3) make an exercise routine

4) self-affirmations before sleeping

“I am excited to wake up feeling energized”, “I can not wait to crush this workout”,“I am deserving of a good night’s sleep”

5) self-affirmations when rising

“I am resilient”, “I am powerful”, “I am strong”, “I am grateful for my ability to move my body”,“I am fearless”

6) put on exercise clothes

7) 5-minute stretching/meditation; taking time to appreciate the abilities my body provides me

All right, so not a million, but 7 things occur before I begin to sweat it out! Just as the smoker referenced above begins to release dopamine by opening the pack, these 7 steps all have that same effect on me! All 7 mini-tasks remove obstacles and lead me toward the habit of daily exercise.

Besides the obvious reward of exercise, the mini-tasks create the experience for my brain to give less effort, or rather, be on autopilot. This is critically important for me as I heavily depend on a high operating brain throughout the day. With this setup my brain can wake up naturally, all of the mini-tasks are executed on autopilot, and the brain does not need to make any decisions upon waking up. My first habit is done and completed without fail and the reward is high-energy, slingshotting me into the rest of the day! So yeah, I choose to continue the loop of all 7 mini-tasks that propel me to habit completion.

Creating the pattern that needs to be recognized IS the act of removing obstacles AND simultaneously (more importantly) exciting us, to complete this habit we are introducing into our lives!

A habit becomes powerful and accessible when we understand the importance of ALL things involved with the creation of said habit AND fall in love with the process of doing them. The habit will become second nature once the loop is complete and the loop completes one micro-step at a time. Motivation exists because we feel rewarded, so stacking mini-tasks is one way to keep us motivated as each step allows us to feel accomplished and leads to the next and the next.

More on stacking habits in 2 weeks. But for now, I’ll leave you all with this:

Habits are typically sought after because of a goal we set. So what is it costing you to not build a lifestyle around habit creation? What are two mini-tasks you can work on putting in place this week to help you complete a habit you’ve been working on creating?

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