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Three Questions for New Habits

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New Plans & Habits

Did you know that Duke University estimated that habits shape 45% of the choices we make every day?

In January especially, many of us look for ways to change our behavior – to find new ways of working smarter rather than harder, or to get rid of some habits that don’t serve us well. Come February, when many of our resolutions have gone by the wayside, we might be tempted to blame it all on a lack of motivation.

However, if you were BJ Fogg, you wouldn’t.

BJ is one of the biggest names in behavior change. He teaches at Stanford University where he leads the Persuasion Technology Lab. He also runs the website Tiny Habits. BJ firmly believes that motivation isn’t necessary in order to perform a simple act; all people need is a reminder.

He says the two far more influential factors are the simplicity of the behavior in question, and the trigger (or reminder), to enact that behavior. If our new behavior requires extra work, we’re more likely not to do it.

We need to make our desired behavior easier – that the key to lasting change does not lie in planning big, monumental changes, but in thinking really, really small. You want to exercise more? Start with one sit-up a day. Then celebrate it immediately. BJ has a few suggestions here!

And BJ isn’t the only one that talks about triggers. According to Charles Duhigg, author of the fantastic book The Power of Habit, rather than focusing only on the new behavior, we need to become aware of the trigger that sets off the old behavior. When you become conscious of the patterns of old habits you can be mindful about replacing them with a new habit.

If you’re planning to take on new projects this year and want to break old habits, ask yourself:

  • What triggers your old, unwanted behavior?
  • What simple and easy-to-implement behavior can you substitute?
  • How will you celebrate it?

About the Author

Michael Bungay Stanier is the Senior Partner of Box of Crayons, a company that helps organizations do less Good Work and more Great Work.

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