Today’s big idea is there is a way to make creating a new habit a lot easier and a lot less of a cognitive lift. And that is by linking the new thing you want to do to some existing habit that’s already ingrained in your brain.
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Last week I talked about how old habits are well worn pathways in your brain. So well worn that they can start to feel like a trench. Well, laying down a new habit requires you to dig a trench. Which, have you dug a trench lately? I have not. But I have shoveled a walkway that goes from porch to my driveway. A distance of about 10 yards, maybe. And that was involved, shall we say.
You can’t expect it to take five minutes. Or to be easy.
What helps make that trench-digging more doable is thinking about some other thing that you’re already doing without a lot of effort. Meaning, creating a new habit with an existing habit. And then yoking your new habit to your old one.
Let’s say you need to remember to bring a mask with you when you leave the house. Because, I don’t know about you, but that is something that I have found surprisingly difficult. I am constantly having to head back in to the house. And since it’s a 10 yard walk from the car to the house, it’s not that quick of a thing. Once I even got all the way to the grocery store before realizing I hadn’t brought a mask. Luckily, I ran into a friend in the parking lot who had an extra to spare. It takes a village, people!
I was getting tired of backtracking and the stress of that oh crap moment when I realized I didn’t have a mask on me. One thing I tried creating a new habit was to put a box for masks in our front entry way. I figured since that’s where I put on shoes and a coat before heading out that this would be just the ticket. Putting it in an obvious place wasn’t working.
Finally I got a tip from my neighbor to put masks everywhere
In your purse, in your coat pocket, in your car, so that even those times when you walk out of the house without one, chances are you have one on hand. You would think this would be obvious, but often when you’re trying to do something new, you don’t see the obvious things. So, instead of putting the masks in a prominent location and hoping I remembered to add it to my things I carry, I had to put the masks in things that I was already used to putting on. Like my coat, or my purse.
It gets a little tricky when those masks need to be washed, I admit. Which brings up a great point about creating a new habit that echoes the things we talked about last week in regard to breaking old habits–it takes time; you have to adapt to all the many different contexts where that habit comes into play; and you have to remember that it’s about progress, not perfection, and forgive yourself for those times where you forget.
Let’s look at some other ways you can create a new habit by tying it to an old one.
- If you want to start a journaling habit, maybe you can add it to your morning coffee ritual.
- If you want to stretch more, maybe you can do one stretch every time you check your email.
- Or if you want to eat healthier, maybe you can add a salad to whatever you normally eat so that you’re upping your overall nutrition and gradually changing your taste buds.
There is nothing wrong with trying to make hard things easier. I saw a great quote on Twitter recently that said, “The easy way is hard enough.” Tying your new habit to something you’re already doing isn’t totally foolproof, but it’s dang sure easier than digging a trench with your bare hands.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Your tiny assignment is to think of the new habit you want to build, and then do some brainstorming on how you could tie it to something you’re already doing. How could you do the equivalent of tucking your mask in to your coat pocket, purse, and glove compartment?
If you get stuck here, please, reach out. You can send me a DM on Instagram, where I’m @katehanleyauthor, or use the Contact Kate button at beabetterpersonpodcast.com. I’m not saying I have all the answers, but maybe typing it out and getting an outside perspective will help give you some new ideas.
Be sure to come back tomorrow! When I’m sharing a pro tip for staying on track in your efforts to establish a new habit.