New Year Resolutions, Goals and Habit Forming

An Inspiration for Change — By Buckminster Fuller

In a recent visit to the local Toastmasters Club here in Shenzhen, China I was kindly reminded of a lot of things I missed out on, which were declared goals for a long time. Let me fill you in here:

When did I go to a Toastmaster event the last time again? Uuuhm, right 2013 in a different in Jinan, China. And didn’t I set up a Blog ages ago to post regularly in order to become a better writer and cultivate my thoughts? What other goals did I set, lets have a look at these endless to do lists, and half-finished vision boards. A sad picture was forming in front of my eyes and realization set in, as I figured that I didn’t accomplish as much as I had planned.

As I am sitting among people eager to improve their public speaking skills, and to become leaders in their respective communities and professions, I find myself listening to a talk about the Habit Loop. Marek Koys, a Czech entrepreneur and friend of mine, is introducing us on how to crack down on procrastination, and make changes to form habits that stick. Exactly what a late starter on 2016 New Years resolutions (check what Richard Bransons has to say about New Years Resolutions) is looking for. My light in the dark. So, whats the Habit Loop and how can we utilize it to achieve your goals with ease?

First of All, whats a habit? Webster defines it as — noun hab·it \ˈha-bət\ that describes a usual way of behaving, something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way. In essence your life today is simply put the sum of your habits. To keep things easy lets focus on good habits here, as each of us can easily identify bad ones such as smoking.

Second, lets have a look at the Habit Loop as described in Charles Duhiggs famous book — The Power of Habit.

The Power of Habit — by Charles Duhigg

Habits can simply be broken down into 3 steps, Cue — Routine — Reward:

A cue (reminder) is basically a trigger, something that starts a certain habit and makes us run through our routine.

The routine equals the action you take when confronted with a triggering event or thought.

And rewards are the benefits you gain from your actions aka your routine.

So let me rephrase here for better retention. The 3 R’s of habitual change are Reminder — Routine — Reward.

Reminders (Cues), can be further categorized in:

Location — where are you when a certain routine is triggered?

Time — at what times is your routine triggered?

Mood — what’s your emotional state when it is triggered?

Thoughts — what are you thinking prior to running through your routine?

Immediate preceding action — what are you doing right before the habit loop is starting.

People — who is around you when its triggered.

The las one reminds me of the famous quote by Jim Rohn:

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with’.

Changing your circle therefore can also help you to form better habits, among other positive effects like gaining a new perspective on things. Think about it, if you want to quit smoking but hang around club bangers and heavy smokers, chances are that change is gonna be tougher than necessary.

The Pomodoro Technique — Savior of Productivity

My first step to change something was realizing that I often sit longer than I intended (routine) which led to back pain and hunger cravings (reminder) and resulted in feasting on sugary shit (reward) that I found around the office (location). This led me to finding a suitable reminder, that ensure I get off my seat, and get a break every now and then. A break that allows me to move around and reward myself with some water or coffee or even plan my lunch to fight hunger cravings from the start. I choose to go with the pomodoro technique, which basically sets a timer for 25 minutes of focused work followed by 5 minute breaks. At this point I am still experimenting with it yet found a good combination of a timer and a to-do-list app called pomotodo. This helps you change your habits and getting shit done. The reward? Increased Productivity, and more of a six-pack. Fun fact, I have a feeling listening to a timer app and hear the time ticking away for 25 minutes I work more focused by trying to beat the clock.

Hit up the links, try it out and let me know what works for you. Share your experiences in the comments. And to reward you, have a look at belows TED talks, to further up you habit game.