Why focussing on habits won’t help you build or break them!
The picture here is of myself and my girlfriend during our yoga-teacher training on the paradise island of Koh Phangan, Thailand.
We had the absolute time of our lives on that trip for many reasons!
It was also probably the easiest month of my life for maintaining good health because the triggers were everywhere!
Meditation every morning followed by 2 hours of yoga.
Fresh, delicious, healthy food available everywhere.
Sunlight, fresh air, nature and ocean swims every day!
But what do I mean by ‘triggers’ and what does it have to do with your habits?
We are the end products of our habits.
Aristotle said back in the day “we are what we repeatedly do” and he had it nailed.
Whether or not we are able to successfully create new positive habits and eliminate negative ones, is more often than not the deciding factor for whether we will achieve any given goal.
All the knowledge and good intentions in the world won’t help you if you can’t employ the habits that produce the desired outcome.
But here’s the thing about habits.
Each one has a trigger.
Often, they have multiple triggers.
And focussing on the habits themselves without understanding the triggers is not going to allow you to modify them!
But what about the triggers for you everyday habits?
Let’s say you drive to work every day and you set off 30 minutes before you start work.
On a good day the drive takes you 25 minutes and you get there 5 minutes early.
On a bad day of traffic, it takes 40 minutes and then obviously you’re 10 minutes late.
You keep being late so, clearly, you need to modify this habit!
Trying really hard to implement a new habit without addressing the triggers, is a bit like carrying on setting off at the same time for work and just trying really hard to get there on time.
The thing that’s causing you to often arrive late, is not your lack of willpower to get there on time, it’s the traffic (the trigger).
So, the thing you need to change is the time you leave the house each morning rather than the effort you put into driving!
Let’s use a fitness-related example to compare.
You’re intending to hit the gym after work but every time you get home you end up on the sofa with a cup of tea and some biscuits, and after 10 minutes sat down you can’t be arsed to get back up!
Triggers? Sofa, tea, biscuits.
These are the cues that are screwing up your routine.
So how about this…
Get home from work and make a tea but DON’T sit down.
Put the tea into a travel mug and immediately grab your gym bag which you’ve already prepped in the morning (see what you did there – trigger!).
Ditch the biscuits and grab a protein bar instead because NOW you’re definitely heading to the gains-factory and gonna want some useful nutrients for building that new chiselled physique you’ve been dreaming about!
Spend 5 minutes right now writing down 10 habits that are either positive ones you want to introduce, or negative ones you want to eliminate.
Now write down what you think are the triggers for each of those habits.
As soon as you come up with a strategy for managing the triggers rather than just willing yourself to change your behaviour, you will instantly find it way easier to adopt or break habits relevant to your goals.
Highlight the triggers for your habits.
Make a plan to deal with them.