We’ve learned a lot about behavior change in the last 2 years. Here’s a bit of my current thinking on it all, and a new free app that you can print out and put in your wallet.
1) Which behavior should I change?
One that helps you learn the habit of changing habits (learn once, use forever). One that’s linked directly to something you desperately crave more of in your life (meaning you crave it on a subconscious level as much as a conscious one). One that’s about doing more of something rather than less than something. One that you can work towards every day. One that takes less than 5 minutes, and that you can do at the same time every day. One that you can enjoy in some way, or that makes you feel good about yourself even just for a few seconds.
2) How many habits should I try to change?
Only one at a time. Please trust me on this one. Stick with one, stick with it for 60 or even 90 days. Then, if you really want, start another. Life is long. Think of how many habits you can change with the tortoise strategy in a year verses how many you start and stop with the hare strategy. Every change creates an equal and opposite force of resistance to change. To keep resistance low, change slower than your excitement propels you to. Hold yourself back… it builds anticipation. If you don’t, excitement inevitably wears off, and resistance will chop you down when you’re weakest, putting you back to square one. One. Habit. At. A. Time. Aim for changes that stick a year, 3 years, or 10 years, and pace yourself accordingly.
3) What if I get distracted or sick or go on vacation?
Get in the habit of being easy on yourself. Break streaks. Don’t beat yourself up for missing a day. Think long term. Appreciate small steps towards progress. Forgive yourself for falling off the wagon. Just get back on when you’re feeling ready again. Give yourself a special day every month to restart anything that got stamped out over the last month. Put it on your calendar and set an alarm. Course correction is the most important meta-habit to cultivate, and often gets ignored in the presence of excitement and big promises and positive thinking. Expect and plan for failure, and have a plan for recovering from it.
4) iPhone app, Android app, pedometer, wrist band, or other?
It doesn’t matter. Paper works just as well.
On that note…
Here’s a paper app you can print out, fold up, and put in your wallet. It’s free! And it encapsulates the best thinking Amelia and I and many others (see Nick Crocker’s great recent article and Leo Baubata’s extensive work) have on the subject.
Give it a try. For extra points, print it out and take a cool picture of yourself with it and tag it #hipsterhabitapp on Instagram.