PPI #94 The Power of Habit: Setting Up "Triggers" to Sustain Habits

Dec 25, 2020
 

SUMMARY 

  • Whether you achieve all the things that you want to achieve in your life, or whether you don't will be strongly linked to your ability to stick to the habits that you know are doing you well.
  • This is about how you can introduce what are called triggers to increase your ability to stick to your habits.
  • All habits break down into a 3 part habit loop. And it basically starts with a trigger or you think of this as like the event that happens right before the behavior or the habit. 
  • So you have something that triggers a habit and then you perform whatever that behavior is. And then there's an aspect of it called the reward, which is why you do the habit because you're seeking some kind of reward.
  • So with this in mind, we can design triggers. We can design events right before the habit that we'd like to be doing. We can design events, things that will happen, such that they remind us to do this new habit.

TRANSCRIPT

Are you fed up with not sticking to your habits? Well, then stick around for today's message because I'm going to be taking you through some things that you can do to give you a much better chance of sticking to the habits that matter most to you.

Hi, I'm Eric Partaker and I help entrepreneurs close that gap between where they are and where they'd like to be from a peak performance point of view, from a company building point of view, or just from a life point of view. And today I want to talk about habits. Because looking at the whole trajectory of your life, whether you achieve all the things that you want to achieve in your life, or whether you don't will be strongly linked to your ability to stick to the habits that you know are doing you well. And of course, to not be doing all the habits that you know are holding you back. So today I'm going to be sharing with you some techniques that you can use to get better at sticking to the habits that matter most. And it's all about using something called triggers. And look for me, this is a massive area of personal development in my life.

One of the coaching certifications and apprenticeships that I completed was with professor BJ Fogg. He runs Stanford University's behavior design lab. And the whole purpose of that coaching certification and apprenticeship was to understand how do we design behavior or more simply, how do we create powerful habits that will do us good, that will serve us well, that will help us achieve the things that we're seeking to achieve. And I know you might be sitting there thinking “Well, I'm horrible though, Eric, at maintaining habits. I've tried this before. I just can't stick to stuff. This isn't me.” That's precisely the point though, of today's message. This is about how you can introduce what are called triggers to increase your ability to stick to your habits.

So we're going to be talking today about a handful of things that you can do called triggers to help you stick to your habits. Now, what are triggers? Well, if you've read the book, The Power of Habit, fantastic book, if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. You'll understand that all habits break down into what's called a habit loop. So the habit loop consists of three parts. And it basically starts with a trigger or you think of this as like the event that happens right before the behavior or the habit. So you have something that triggers a habit and then you perform whatever that behavior is. And then there's an aspect of it called the reward, which is why you do the habit because you're seeking some kind of reward, physical, emotional, mental, whatever that may be. So with this in mind, we can design triggers. We can design events right before the habit that we'd like to be doing. Or we can design triggers. We can design events, things that will happen, such that they remind us to do this new habit.

And the more times that the trigger happens and then the more times that we do the habit, the more that becomes in our psyche. And after a period of time, often we don't even, maybe even need the trigger that we are using to cue, or to signal the habit. So let's go into a few different areas in which you can be using triggers to start creating the habits that you're seeking to create in your life.

So the first area that I want to talk about with regards to triggers are phone alarms. Now I use phone alarms all the time. I have alarms for so many different things. One of my boys joked around with me before saying, “Dad you even have a phone alarm that says brush your teeth.” So, I mean, I don't actually need a phone alarm to brush my teeth. But the point is that I've used my phone alarms quite a lot to trigger new habits, especially in the early days to get a habit going.

But there is one particular area where I've used a phone alarm every single day now for years. And it's to define how I want to be showing up in certain areas of my life. And I think about my life across my health, wealth, and relationships. And I'm using this as a little story, a little example of how you could use triggers and phone alarms in particular, to start showing up in a better way to cue certain habits. So what I use in this example is I use my phone alarms to trigger a way of being across those three areas that I previously mentioned in life, my health, my wealth, or my work, and relationships.

So at 6:30 AM, the first alarm on my phone goes off and it says world fitness champion. And that's to cue that identity, that persona, that version of me, who's going to go to the gym. And it forms this habit of me showing up with a lot more conviction, a lot more confidence, a lot more determination, because I'm queuing that version of me. It's creating this habit of showing up more strongly all because I've simply come up with a little phrase and put that on my phone as an alarm to cue that version of me. Second alarm, for me, goes off at 9:00 AM. It says world's best coach, similar sort of thing to kind of cue that version of me to create that habit of showing up with my work as strongly and as confidently as possible.

And then the last alarm that I have on my phone is at 6:30 PM. It says the world's best husband and father to prompt the question,”How would the world's best husband and father walk through that door right now?” As my work day is coming to an end and I'm transitioning to home life. I want to cue the habit of showing up as my best, as a husband and father. And so I use a phone alarm for that.

One other quick area that I use a phone alarm for from a habit forming point of view, is I have an alarm in the evening set as well, these days I've put it at 8:00 PM and it just says, digital sunset. You can name the phone alarm, whatever you like when you're setting it. And so a digital sunset pops up on my screen when that goes off. And that is to cue the habit of shutting off all the electronics so that I'm not looking at any of that harmful blue light, which reduces your ability to sleep at night just before bed. So I'm kind of freeing myself up from all of that electronic stimulation so that I end up sleeping better.

But you could set a phone alarm and use that as a trigger to cue all types of habits. So if there's a habit that you'd like to do more regularly, especially at a certain time of day, or if it's just that you want to cue or signal a certain kind of way of being as I've done with the example I provided. Well, think about using your phone, right? Because the thing with our phones is rightly or wrongly, we have them with us nearly all the time. So start using it as a device, as a trigger device to bring out and help you develop whatever habits that you're seeking to work on.

The second thing that you can do with regards to triggers or the second area, if you will, in which you can create triggers is your environment. So think of that in terms of your location. If you can plant or create environmental cues, they will trigger whatever habit that you're trying to form.

Let me give you a quick example. Let's say that on a daily basis, you'd like to start reading in the morning, even if it's just for five minutes or 10 minutes. So one of the things that you could do is take the book that you'd like to start reading and put it on the kitchen table, maybe next to the coffee pot, wherever it is that you're not going to miss it. So that one of the first things that you're going to see in the morning is that book. Now don't put the book at the foot of your bed, because yes, it might be the first thing you see in the morning, but then you're going to perhaps trip over it or walk by it and start doing other stuff. You want to put it strategically in the place, in the location whereby seeing it, it's at the exact right moment where you could also then be picking it up and taking it. And you're doing that right there in that moment, reading the book.

So you want to strategically place that book in the right space within your environment so that you're ready to start work on your reading habit. And then you could apply this to other things as well. So if you want to kind of cue yourself to work out in the morning, you could lay out all your workout clothes. And have those ready to go in the location in your room that you can't miss. And that will by sight, make you think, okay. Yeah, I got to put those clothes on that I laid out, the night before and it's time to go work out.

The other thing that you can think about when it comes to your environment is just having a particular location that you associate with always doing a certain habit. Let's say, if you're working on writing a book or trying to learn a new skill associated with a particular location in your home. So that you know that whenever I go into this room, I always do this this particular thing. And then whenever you're in that room, that will trigger that habit and that desire over time to work on whatever it is that you're trying to work on.

Another area in which you can create triggers relates to time. So I'll give you a quick example here. Every Thursday morning at 10:00 AM without fail, I send out a weekly peak performance insights email to my subscribers. By the way, if you're interested in peak performance insights, and you'd like super practical, simple tips to help upgrade your business, or life, or simply your desire to reach your full potential, then head over to my website at, ericpartaker.com, where you can subscribe to that newsletter.

So every Thursday morning at 10:00 AM without fail, I send that newsletter. And because I've been doing that so often without fail every Thursday morning at 10:00 AM, it's become this habit. I don't even have to think about it anymore. I know Thursday morning, 10:00 AM. I've associated that with a newsletter going out. So I always know that it's either on Wednesday morning or Thursday morning, depending on what my schedule looks like, where I'll be working on that newsletter. So I've associated a particular habit sending out the newsletter with a specific time within the week. And that's helped me trigger that habit in a much better way. There's no chance of forgetting it because it's always associated with that time, same time every single week. So you can think in your own life what are the best times of day or times of week or sorry, days in the week, that would most logically linked to the habit that you're trying to form.

And then the secret there is to always do that the same every single week. Don't keep changing up the time of the day or the day of the week. It will be much less likely that the habit will form. The habit needs consistency. So same time of day, same day or days of the week. And that will help you trigger whatever new habit that you're trying to form.

Another fantastic area that you can use to create triggers for good habits is in the arena of emotions. So whenever you have a positive or a negative emotion, you can start associating and linking a particular habit to that. So let me give you two quick examples.

In general, I find that the peak performers that I'm working with are the people who want to achieve peak performance in their business or life, they're not so good at respecting or appreciating the things that have gone well in their day or life. And one of the most powerful things that you can do in that regard is to create a habit around gratitude and appreciation for the things that have gone well. And that you are enjoying. And so the trigger that you would use in this instance is getting into the habit of whenever you feel positive, or happy, or super grateful about something, you take note of that throughout the day. And you could do this in the moment, or perhaps you do it at the end of the day. And you reflect back to when did I feel happiest? Or the most positive during the day. And just develop that habit of using that emotion as a trigger for noting, whatever it was that made you feel that way.

And over time, when you do that, you start to generate more happiness in your life. Simply because you're using the emotion as a trigger to record a note, whatever it was that that emotion was a result of. Now, you can also do this for negative emotions. So we've all been here. You get angry, frustrated and typically when that happens, we might lose our cool or say something that later we regret. And a nice habit to link to those emotional states is whenever you get flustered, or frustrated, or anxious, or angry, you can link the new habit of just pausing. Just pause. Take a deep breath, walk out of the room, go for a walk, develop that habit of creating a bit of space between whatever is the trigger and your response to that. The benefit of doing this is that your response will almost always then be better. So another example of how you can use an emotional state as a trigger to then perform a habit that you think will serve you well.

And last but not least one other area or arena, which you can use as a trigger for a good habit is simply the art of making and creating checklists. So if there are certain things, certain habits that you'd like to start doing on a daily basis, or throughout your day, or make sure that you've done by the end of your day, create a checklist. Create a checklist that perhaps you review at the start of the day. And perhaps that you check in with, at the end of your day, to make sure that you're doing the things that you want to be doing. And the checklist itself becomes a trigger. So you can have all your activities on there that you're looking to do.

And you can combine this with some of the other methods, right? So you could set a phone alarm that says check checklist. And that could be set at the start of the day so that you're checking in and you're saying, okay, here's the things that I know lead to a great day for me. And I'm going to try to tick off all of those things on a daily basis. So I hope you've enjoyed that. And if you head over to my website at ericpartaker.com, you'll also be able to subscribe to my weekly insights.