The ‘Special Sauce’ for Making A New Habit Stick

a new habit

Today’s big idea builds on the adage that, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. And you can get a donkey to be happier and more productive by giving them carrots instead of hitting them with a switch. Meaning, in order to really cement in a new habit, it helps to celebrate every little piece of progress you make. And to savor every little benefit you notice. 

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This is harder than it sounds

Because the human brain is wired to look for problems. Not good things. It’s called the ‘negativity bias.’ It’s what helped us remember which plants made us sick. And where the saber tooth tigers congregated so that we could avoid danger and survive. So the negativity bias is not all bad. But it will also get you to breeze right past good things. Like how energetic you feel the days after you get in bed early. Or how not bloated and gassy you are when you eat the healthy foods that agree with you. Or what have you. 

Again, awareness is a crucial player here. You can’t savor something you don’t even recognize has happened. The trick is to start training yourself to notice good feelings. Once you’ve acknowledged that they’re there, only then can you pause long enough to let them sink in to your cells. 

Let’s say you’re trying to build a habit of spending 10 minutes a night putting things away and restoring some amount of order to your home

It’s easy to think of that as just a chore, or a box to tick. Which is not all that motivating. It’s like eating your lima beans or something else that you hate that you are trying teach yourself to endure. But when you raise your awareness of how those 10 minutes benefit you, your energy shifts. And when you change your energy, you change your results. 

So, when you get up in the morning and walk into an orderly kitchen and you breathe easy because you know you don’t have to wash a coffee mug in order to enjoy your morning beverage, that’s a moment to stop and say, wow! This is great.

Or when you need to find that bill and you know exactly where to look and it’s actually there, you can take a moment to appreciate yourself for making that happen. Or when you have your first Zoom of the day you don’t have to scramble to clean up your background, you can savor how good it feels to just open the meeting with no stress before hand. All those moments of recognition and appreciation are going to fuel you each night when you realize it’s time to do your tidying. 

Recognizing these moments transforms efforts to build a new habit from something you have to get done into helping yourself. Because you want something better for yourself. And that is just a lot more fun than trying to be a perfect little box ticker. Am I right? 

Daily Tiny Assignment

Your tiny assignment is to think of three positive things that you’ve noticed as a result of your doing some new habit. If you’ve been getting more exercise, it could be when you climbed the flight of stairs and noticed you weren’t winded the way you used to get. Or when you saw yourself in the mirror and detected a little definition in your bicep. Or that your back hasn’t been hurting.

It doesn’t have to be this big transformative moment like you fit back into your skinny pants. Just these little things that make you feel something positive. You can do this at a certain time of day. Like when you first get in bed, or while you’re in the shower. But devoting a little time to it will help you have a great sense of recognition when those things occur. 

The more aware you are of the benefits your new habits are creating, the more you’ll naturally want to keep it up. And the more you will be able to avoid the temptation to backslide. And backsliding is something we’ll cover tomorrow, so come on back!


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