I’m sure you have habits that you would like to change or have attempted to change in the past that simply didn't stick. Maybe it was eliminating something in order to be healthier, like cutting out smoking or drinking soda or eating sweets. Or, maybe you were trying to add something in like meditation, exercise, yoga or more vegetables. It worked for a little while, but then you slowly faded away back to your old ways of doing things. Don't worry, you are not alone. Been there, done that and if there was a t-shirt for each time I fell back into old habits, I’d need a new closet.
How long does it take to either develop a new habit or get rid of an unwanted habit? Is it 21 days? Is it 30 days? Is it 60 days? It is none of the above and it is all of the above. Let me explain. Habits are unconscious actions that we take based on conditioned patterns of thought and prompts. Habits are not based on time alone. Habits can be based on intensity of the action, the frequency of which the action is performed and the duration. The more ingrained that path of action is, the harder it is to develop a new path because the habit loop has been reinforced over and over and over again. The habit loop is when we have a prompt or a cue of which an action or routine proceeds and then the reward to complete the loop. For example, when you eat dinner and after dinner you have a piece of chocolate. The cue is dinner time. The routine is eating dinner and the reward is getting the chocolate. Now, if we look at this same pattern in the Fogg Behavior Model, which B=MAP or Behaviors (B) happen when Motivation (M), Ability level (A) and a Prompt (P) are present. If one of these components is missing, the deserted behavior doesn't happen.
With this model, if there is a prompt, if the motivation is high to take an action on that prompt and the ability to take the action is easy to do, then the likelihood of the behavior happening is high.
Let’s take coffee as an example. If I love coffee in the morning and I have a coffee maker in my kitchen, the likelihood of me getting my coffee is really high. The prompt is morning time and walking into the kitchen. I am highly motivated because I love coffee and it is easily accessible because I have a coffee maker. The behavior is most likely going to happen.
Now, the same scenario only, I don't have a coffee maker. I have to drive 20 minutes to get my coffee. While the prompt of morning time is still there and my motivation is still high, but now, it is not easy to do. The likelihood of me getting my coffee decreases.
My point in all of this is, we have to make our new desired habits easy to do to where our motivation doesn't have to be super high in order for the behavior to change. When we change one habit, other little habits form and multiply and that is when we make big changes that we feel good about instead of trying to force ourselves to make big, unrealistic changes.
Try this! When you wake up in the morning and your feet hit the ground, smile and say to yourself “I’m alive, I’m awake and I feel great” 3 times. This is a simple habit to incorporate into your life and starting the day with that positivity, who knows what other positive habits it might lead to. When we feel good about what we do, the chances of us repeating that behavior increases
Author: Michael Keane