“Is there any honor among thieves?” This quote is often used to highlight the irony that thieves don’t steal from each other. When one thief betrays another, the Judas is supposed to be subject to the harshest of penalties. It could also be said that this quote demonstrates that everybody, even thieves, need to have some credibility. There should be a place where you can go where your word means something. Does your word to yourself, the promises you make to be a better you, mean anything?
I recently read a book about habits: THE POWER OF HABIT by Charles Duhigg. It isn’t a “fun” book. Instead, it is a book that makes you think. You have to read it slowly to take it in while thinking about yourself at the same time. There were quite a few things that I liked about the book; however, one fact that stood out more than any of the others. The author showed how once you quit or give up on something that you set out to do, it becomes easier to keep quitting that thing. How many times have you said that you were going to exercise more? How many times have you said you were going to stop being late? What’s more is how many times have you caught yourself blowing off how you failed at the very thing you said you were going to work on?
My greatest bad habit is using profanity. I pride myself on being an elegant person; however, I hate the fact that I always seem to be starting over with my commitment to quit. I think cursing is kind of trifling. I think it reflects an inability to control my emotions and think on my feet. Think about it: when you curse at somebody, it is a knee-jerk reaction. Instead of cursing, why can’t I simply scream, “HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEY!!!!” Or if I’m upset, why do I need to use bad words to communicate my frustration. I must do better. By the same token, I’ve embarrassed myself in certain settings when something “popped off”, and I responded without with a few inappropriate words.
The author recommended a few practical steps to help with will-power. He called it the “habit-reward loop”. Essentially, you have to identify the behavior you want to change, create a routine around changing (a trigger) that behavior and a reward.
The Reward. First, Duhigg talked about how important is to envision the outcome that you want. For example, every time you think about eating those potato chips, think about how fine you really want to be as you drop the pounds. In my case, I dream of telling people off using SAT words so that they’ll have to look up half of what I said. I know it is wrong to make people feel stupid; however, if I’m going in on you for something that was really wrong on your part, I want you to feel dumb. Envisioning outcomes is important because goals that don’t really matter to you don’t motivate you to try.
The Habit. Second, the author talked about identifying the things that trigger you. This part is a little tricky. You have the habit, which is the behavior you want to change. The trigger is the thing that sets you up to do the habit. For example, lets say that you check social media before showering everyday which always causes you to run late. Your trigger is simply waking up! Another example is that my trigger to walk my dog used to be getting home from work. As soon as I got home, I changed shoes and got the leash. I had trained myself so that getting home meant walking the dog.
The Loop. At night you set yourself up to check social media first thing in the morning because of where you place your phone, within arms reach. It is called the loop because you keep doing it over and over again. So, waking up is your trigger (because checking your phone first thing is what you do when you get up) while the habit is checking the phone. The book’s author says the best way change the habit is not give in to the trigger, unless you want to keep running late.
More Reward. Third, the author said we keep doing the same things over and over because we’re getting something out of it, a reward of some sort. Our brains give off “happy hormones” when we do stuff that we enjoy. What’s worse is that we keep going after the thing we enjoy even if the thing we enjoy causes problems. Therefore, in order to effectively change your behavior, you must find a way to reward yourself along the way. Seriously, I know it may sound stupid to some people; however, my motivation to eat healthy all day is that I give myself permission to eat a small lemon pastry every other night as long as I stay on track. So, the rewards along the way in addition to my vision of being a dime-piece make the sacrifice (giving up burgers, fries, hot wings and pizza) worth it. I’m going to be fine, and I don’t feel miserable while I’m at it! Essentially, the anticipation of the reward makes eating brown rice and cauliflower sucks a little less. Mr. Duhigg also says that every time you’re tempted to break the new habit, you should envision the long-term goal. Last night, I decided to keep walking past Krispy Kreme because I knew eating that would set me back on my dime-piece goal and would mean that I couldn’t eat the lemon bar!
Change? What does your word to yourself mean? What habit-reward loop do you need to re-work?