Build a New Habit that will Actually Stick

Have you ever tried to implement a new habit or strategy and utterly failed?  No matter how convinced you were that this new trick would change your life?  Was it a diet?  Exercise?  Spending more time with your team?  Completing your standard work?

I know what you are probably thinking.  I don’t need to hear from you – there is a book for that!  And you are right!  There are plenty of books on it.  And most of these books have some very valid strategies for you!  But that isn’t where things fall apart is it?  Things fall apart when it comes to execution.  Here are some examples : 21 days to build a new habit?  Have you ever made it 21 days?  I know I have.  I did a 21 day vegan detox and exercise plan and felt absolutely fantastic.  But did it become a new habit and way of life?  God no.  And why?  Because sometimes when I’m stressed out, I binge on cheeseburgers, bacon and beer.  I also decided I was going to start getting up an hour earlier every day so I had time to exercise before officially starting my day.  I wanted to make the change so badly as I knew “eating that frog” would make the day less stressful for me.  And guess what?  I made it 4 days.  So what is going on?

 So lets get real about what it takes to build a new habit.  We spend the majority of our lives relying on the oldest part of our brains.  What we call the reptilian brain.  And research shows we are operating with this part of the brain 51% of the time.  This means that we are being driven by habit – or are on automatic mode.  Have you ever gotten in your car and driven to work, only to realize you are pulling into the parking lot without realizing how you got there?  That’s habit.  Since we are so often controlled by this part of our brain, we need to come up with a plan to outsmart ourselves. 

Figure your Trigger

I have found 2 ways that seem to work best to outsmart my own crafty brain.  The first is from The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and he recommends that instead of only focusing on the new habit, most of your energy should be focused on the trigger that sets off the old behaviour.  So in my example about trying to get up earlier, what triggers me to sleep in?  Do I need to go to sleep earlier?  Do I need to move my alarm across the room?  Do I need to sleep in my exercise clothes?  What can I change to make it more difficult to default to my old habit?  Let me make this even more real for you: When it comes to leadership habits, perhaps you’d like to spend more time coaching your team.  Instead of just stating that you are going to spend more time doing that, really dig into why you haven’t been doing it before.  Is it that you haven’t built specific time into your day to actually do it?  Do you waste time lost in the world of your iphone?  I know this was a big one for me and I had the most success with the coaching habit when I turned off my email until I had completed at least one coaching session!  And guess what?  The world didn’t end when I didn’t provide an email response within 30 seconds.  So, for me the old habit was getting lost in email and once I created a plan to deal with that, my new habit really took off.

A 60 Second Habit

The second is from Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg.  His idea is basically not make a mountain out of a molehill.  Have you heard that saying?  His advice is to make your new habit so easy and obtainable that it can be completed in 60 seconds or less.  So instead of trying to wake up an hour earlier every day, get up 10min earlier 2X a week.  And then keep going.  He uses an example about flossing his team.  His goal was to start flossing daily but his new habit was simply to floss one tooth a day.  And of course, once he got started, he would finish the job.  To go back to my experience with my coaching habit, I didn’t need to overcomplicate these moments with my team into some formal performance review.  Most days this was a quick moment of “I saw you wearing your PPE this morning and I just wanted to thank you for taking care of yourself and role modelling for your peers.  Awesome work and I appreciate you”.  Or “on my standard work inspections, I saw that you seem to be behind on your training certification.  Is there anything I can do to help with that?”  It doesn’t have to be a big thing but just enough to know that you are checking and that you care. 


So 2 strategies to help you with your new habit:

1.       Figure your Trigger

2.       Define your 60Sec habit


Best of luck with your new habits and I just know you are going to kill this!!  If you like this and would like more tips, comment below!