Want your change to succeed? Loop it!

I found for myself one important rule, that allows me to inject new things into my life and I want to share this thought with you.

The rule is: before you learn something new, improve an existing competency or develop a new skill, think how can you implement a loop system in your existing environment.

Let me give you an example. I always wanted to write my own blog. I admire people who share their thoughts with others. It’s impressive how much people have to say but only few of them actually do it. Maybe it’s because of fear from being jugged by readers, not sufficient amount of time or any other excuse. I won’t be talking about motivation here.

Each time when I decide to write, it was very hard to make a first step. And I mean not to write the first sentence, but to find the right place, time and lust to do it. And even when I already have all the necessary stuff to write the first sentence, the promise I made to myself that “I will write my own blog” never became real. A couple of times I even wrote a draft but I never completed any post. Not because it wasn’t perfect, what I accept — it was unfinished, ended somewhere in the middle and I always needed to found another slot to finish it. The issue was that I could motivate myself to do it once but to keep writing on regular basis was out of my reach. Every two or three months I could find enough drive to write but after a long breaks I usually lost my plot because the gap between two slots were too big, so each time I started another draft on a different topic.

I noticed similar patterns in other parts of my life and even in how my team works.

I was always easy to begin running, cycling, swimming, writing, creating to-do lists or preparing to retrospectives. It worked similarly within the team. Team members organized themselves from time to time an event to pay technical debt, do some pair programming for an iteration, practice TDD for a sprint or create long term product vision once a year. On a higher level it was similar too. Our managers did performance reviews once per quarter, the company checked annual goals once a year. But all these activities weren’t permanent. They were ad-hoc solutions for everlasting challenges, problems and issues.

So I started to look why particular things in my life are permanent, while others are temporary. Motivation is important — of course, but what I discover is that all successful things I made, I made in loops, they’re repetitive.

To keep my teeth clean I brush it each day. That’s a loop.I call my parents once a week to maintain a strong relationship with my parents. That’s another loop. I clean immediately after the meals to keep my kitchen tidy. A loop again. I use to-do lists to organize my day every morning. A loop. I realized that that if I want my change to become durable I need to implement some loop system for it.

Based on this I made a promise to myself that I will keep looping. I still wanted to write a blog so I started with thinking how I will implement writing into my existing life. I am an agile coach so I decided to write about agility, which will also develop my coach skills. I do have some slack time at work so I decided I will use one hour for writing. Since a “silent room” with lots of plants and comfy armchairs was recently created in our company, I thought it’s a perfect for me. So now I’ve been sitting for almost 30 minutes in silent room writing my 4th blog post.

As with writing, I wanted to improve my condition. I looked at my current state. I have 2 small kids (almost 3 years old and 2 months old) and I had time only after 9 pm. I decided that I will go running for 1 hour each Tuesday after 9 pm. As I work on the 4th floor and I always use elevator, I decided to use stairs on daily basis and abandon lift. In the summer I’m planning to use my bicycle instead of a car to get to work.

After I started with this approach I discovered that each iteration is simpler and less effort is needed to make another attempt. The mental pain goes down with each and every try. What motivates me strongly is that after each loop I see the results of my actions. This gives me enormous amount of pride, power, self confidence and courage to continue.

After a couple of successful loops I made a break. I felt regret that I missed an attempt. This is how the habits are built. Pain level grew, the higher the more attempts I missed. You can see this on the chart below: after the 10th attempt I made a break. I experienced a higher “pain” level when I tried to return to the routine.

Nowadays when I want to start something new in my life, I start from thinking how I will implement loop in my existing world to support progressing towards my goal.

I want to work closely with my Product Owner so I proposed weekly meetings. We’re starting next week.

I want to build more connections at work to get to know my colleagues better so each day I try to eat lunch with a different person.

I want to try new tastes so every day I cook a new meal from a culinary blog which I particularly like.

First attempts of any loop hurt and are uncomfortable. I have to force myself to follow my path every time, but after 4–5 times I notice the difference and that feels really good!!!