We always start with the best intentions. How many times have we said “starting Monday I’m going to eat healthier” or “when my schedule slows down in [insert month] I’m going start exercising more”? It’s good to have good intentions but they only get you so far. Very quickly motivation dwindles and we fall back into our old, not so good habits. If you find yourself in a constant cycle of false starts and old habits it’s time you update your approach. Last week we discussed James Clear’s 4 laws of breaking a bad habit. This week we are going to discuss the 4 laws of building a good habit:
- Make It Obvious
- Make It Attractive
- Make It Easy
- Make It Satisfying
If you missed last weeks blog you can find it below.
We are going to use the same scenario as last week only instead of focusing on eliminating the bad habit of snacking, we are going to focus on building the better habit of consistent exercise. Here’s a reminder of the scenario: when you get home from work you know and want to workout but instead you snack on not so great food. After snacking on unhealthy food, the last thing you want to do is workout. And before you know it, you miss your workout window. The goal: exercise consistently after work.
- Make It Obvious
The first thing we must do is decide when we are going to exercise by Habit Stacking. Habit Stacking goes like this: After [Current Habit], I will [New Habit]. We know we are going to exercise after work but we need to be more specific. You may have to do a few things when you get home from work before exercising. So your habit stack might look like this: After [Feeding the dog], I will [Workout]. Keep this part consistent so your brain knows every day exactly when you will exercise. If your schedule is different on certain days, create a habit stack specific for those days.
Remember from last week, our minds are easily swayed by our environment. So we must prime our environment to cue our brain that it’s time to exercise. For example, have your exercise clothes on the kitchen chair already to go so that’s what you see when you walk in from work. Put them there each night for the next day.
2. Make It Attractive
To make exercise more attractive we can apply something called Temptation Bundling. Temptation Bundling is combining something you enjoy with something you need to do (like exercise). For example you could combine your favorite podcast with exercise. What are some examples you can think of? Creating a Motivation Ritual could also be an effective strategy. A Motivation Ritual is performed by doing something you enjoy immediately before the habit to make it easier to get started. I foam roll before I exercise because I enjoy it, it puts me in the right mindset and makes it easier in my head to go to the workout room (because I know I’m starting with something I enjoy and is easy). If I was starting with squat thrusts instead of foam rolling I might be more likely to never get started and skip the workout.
3. Make It Easy
This one is simple. Eliminate as many steps between you and the habit you want to start. If it takes you 5 steps to get started to exercise how can you eliminate 3 of them? For example every time I am done exercising I always prepare the room so it’s ready to go for the next workout. This eliminates the step of cleaning the workout area before getting started the next time. Also, another benefit of having our clothes ready to go from the first law we discussed is it eliminates the steps of going upstairs to our room, picking out clothes and then going back down stairs. We just eliminated 3 steps like that! Not to mention, your bed might look to comfy when you pick out your clothes creating another obstacle to trip you up by choosing a nap over a workout.
4. Make It Satisfying
Like the other laws there are a few ways we can approach this. One is to track. Have your calendar on your fridge and give a nice big green check mark for every day you exercised. Seeing your progress and hard work is important for continued momentum and success. Another is to do something rewarding right after completing your habit. On the weekends I reward myself with coffee immediately after I exercise. What are some ways you could reward yourself?
These 4 laws are massively important to apply toward anything we want to accomplish in life. Keep focused on the right habits and your goals will come. If you only focus on the goal and not creating the habits it takes to get there, it’s unlikely you will succeed and instead will be in that repeating pattern of false starts and unrealized potential. Once your good habit is established you won’t need to think as much about the above, you’ll just do it. Apply these 4 laws to the habit you want to create. It will take time to reach your goal. Stay consistent and persistent.
You got this!