July 5th, 2012 by Kevin Ngo
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”
– Jim Ryun
Breaking bad habits can be tough but creating good habits can be as well. From my experience, one of the things that make forming a new habit hard is that a lot of will power is usually involved, at least in the beginning, and that alone can stop many people from correctly developing the desired habit.
Simple Trick to Easily Create a New Habit
I’m sure this has been written about somewhere before, maybe not with the name ‘habit linking’ but I was thinking since habits are really just a sequence of actions that starts with some form of trigger, the challenge in creating a new habit is that you have to consciously trigger the new habit. Now instead of just using will power and reminding yourself to start the new chain of actions each day, why not just link it to an existing habit?
The idea is to just choose a habit that you already have and link it to the new habit you want to create. Once the existing habit starts to run its course, you simply just add onto the sequence of actions that’s already in process. I’ve thought about this for a while now and was going to write about it but I figured it would make way more sense if I actually tested it first.
The two steps are to decide on a new habit and choose an existing habit to link it to such as showering, drinking coffee, breakfast/lunch/dinner, driving to work, brushing your teeth, smoking if you’re a smoker, daily TV time, sleeping, waking up, etc. Basically, anything that you already do on a daily basis without even thinking much about it. Obviously, some existing habits will fit better with your new habit than others.
For my experiment, I chose a new habit (daily push ups) and linked it to an existing habit (showering). With this experiment, the new habit came before the existing habit but the trigger is still from the existing habit. In other words, your new habit doesn’t have to come after the sequence of actions of your existing habit.
The main goal of this experiment was for me to see how easy it would be to form this new habit when linked to an existing one.
It started with just 20 push ups, something easy. So before I showered each day, I would do the push ups. After a couple of days, I increased the amount just to make it a bit more challenging.
Gradually, over the course of about 3 months, I added in a bunch of other things. I’m now doing 50 push ups, 10 pull ups, 90 crunches, 20 weighted squats, 20 weighted dips, 20 should presses and 20 lat raises using resistance bands, and 50 calf raises before showering. I do this almost daily depending on whether or not I hit the gym for my regular workout sessions.
Now since I feel like something is missing if I don’t do this mini workout before showering, I know the habit is pretty much ingrained. I found it to be pretty easy to create this habit and not much will power was involved. The trigger to shower would activate and I’d automatically just start doing my push ups which starts the chain of exercises.
I think the key, aside from using an existing trigger, is to start out with something really easy. Easy enough where you’d really have no excuses not to just do it. Once that starts becoming part of your daily routine, add on to it. The trigger from the existing habit is still needed even if the action is really easy since easy actions are also easy to forget or put off.
When I started, my goal was just to do some push ups and that’s it. But as the habit grew stronger, it got easier to do so naturally, I wanted to push myself a bit and that’s how I ended up with a mini workout instead of just a few dozen push ups.
I’m planning on creating a new habit using the same method but haven’t decided on what new habit I want to create yet. Perhaps eating more fruit. We’ll see.
Bonus: A reader of this site, Tammy, recommended rewarding yourself when you follow through with the development of the habit. Doing this can definitely be a great motivator for many people. Just make sure your reward isn’t something that will set you too far back like eating a burger as reward for eating more fruit 🙂
Update: I decided on my new habit: practicing the guitar. I linked it to after dinner. I’m a beginner so having calluses is quite awesome. No more pain. 🙂
Anyway, just thought I’d share. If you decide to give this method a try, I’d love to read about your results.
Until next time…
Love Life. Do Good. Live Well.
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