Triggers, Habits, Making Changes that Stick, Part 2
I was speaking with a business associate I hadn’t spoken with for about a year. The last time we spoke she was pregnant and now she is enjoying her baby son (her third child). She and her husband had waited a few years between their second and third children and I suggested perhaps the first two are good helpers. She said they love to help and while that’s been wonderful, they are very young and she has to keep a very close eye.
I explained the dynamic had been different with my kids (who are grownups now—one is a recent college grad and two are in college). The younger two are twins, about two-and-a-half years younger than our first, Jeremy; so he wasn’t old enough to be a “helper”.
That led to a discussion about twins and people being able to tell them apart (and more often not). I explained it took Jeremy two years to be able to tell them apart. While that might seem like a long time, it was a shorter time than for nearly everyone else. Because he was still so young, people marveled about his ability to tell them apart.
Before he could tell them apart, he would point and say, “that one” or other similar ways of telling us who he was talking about. Marcie and I enjoy telling about one time when the girls were about 18 months old. Marcie walked out of the room where she left the three kids. Seconds later she heard one of the girls crying. She asked Jeremy what happened.
Pointing as he spoke, he said, “Her hit her.”
When I told the story to the business associate who recently had her third, she laughed, which is what happens every time I have told that story.
She said, “I hope I remember stories like that about my kids. I’ve got to start writing down these things when they happen.”
I explained I had adopted a habit of writing down those funny kid stories. Every time something happened funny enough to tell other people, I would write it down. I loved telling those stories, and doing so became a “trigger” for the habit of remembering to write down those stories.
A couple of years ago I pulled out my notebook of stories and read a bunch of them to the kids, which led to a lot of laughs.
Much has been written about creating “triggers” as a way to help make new habits stick—associating behaviors you want to turn into habits with other, established habits.
I wrote about some triggers that help me remember to shave and take my vitamins each day. You can read that here.
In a Wall Street Journal article, Rachel Bachman wrote, “One strategy for sticking to a workout resolution is to create plans specifying when, where, and how you will take action, for example ‘after I have my cup of coffee I will put on my shoes and go running.’ Then it is no longer you who controls the behavior but the situation which triggers the action.”
Exercise classes can be triggers. I associate Saturday and Sunday mornings with yoga classes at a local studio. And I made a conscious decision that telling those funny stories about my kids would be my trigger for remembering to write them down (well before I knew the term “triggers” as it related to habits).
As a reminder, the key to making real, positive, lasting change, is breaking down your big goals into small pieces—small enough that when you focus on them one at a time for 21 days they will become a habit.
Habits are the key because they are behaviors that are automatic and routine for you—you don’t have to think about them. And because you don’t have to think about them, they don‘t require willpower.
Why is willpower so important?
We each have a limited amount of willpower and making many small habits over time will add up to the large changes we want—and those changes stick!
What are some triggers for your good habits? And what are some triggers you might put into place to help you create new habits? Join the conversation with your comments…
All the best,