One of the greatest dancers and choreographers of the modern era, Twyla Tharp, has spent decades performing to the delight of audiences around the world. She attributes her phenomenal longevity to one simple daily habit. “I begin each day of my life with a ritual,” she writes. “I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirt, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st Street and First Avenue, where I work out for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go, I have completed the ritual. It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habituates it—makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.”[i] Instead of focusing on the two-hour workout, she shrinks the commitment to getting into the cab. Once she is in the cab, this gateway habit shapes her next two hours. Continue reading Shink the Commitment – Build a Habit
Willpower is not an effective long-term strategy for behavior change because it is inconstant. When we are stressed-out, tired, and hungry our willpower will leave us vulnerable to any temptations we encounter. Fortunately for us the more committed we are, the less willpower we will need. Shaping your environment will shield you from temptation. By removing the temptations that reward bad habits, we can extinguish them without exerting our willpower. It doesn’t require willpower to shape our environment. It requires commitment. Continue reading Environmental Design is a Great Substitute for Willpower
An effective strategy for behavior change needs to address one or more of the components of the habit loop. The more of them you engage, the better your chances of success. The most effective strategies encourage or discourage the habit at the beginning. You won’t reinforce a craving if you remove the temptation or cannot perform the habit. You cannot make the Reward of a good habit more satisfying if you do not do it.
The First Rule of Behavior Change, Shrink the Commitment, is the most effective way to create a good habit. Shrink the new behavior down so small in the beginning that even on your absolute worst day, you could keep your habit streak alive. We don’t rise to the level of our aspirations; we sink to the level of our standards. Set the bar so low, you cannot fail, but remember that bar is a minimum requirement. You can always do more when you feel motivated to do so, but never less. Continue reading The Five Rules of Behavior Change:
He reverses these four laws to break a bad habit. Make the Cue invisible, the Reward unattractive, the Routine harder to execute, and the Reward unsatisfying. He does a fantastic job of providing practical suggestions on how to accomplish each law.[i] James Clear’s book complements Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. The Power of Habit helps us to understand habits, but it isn’t a manual for behavior change. Atomic Habits fulfills that role, providing actionable strategies in a simple to follow format. This book has an even narrower focus. It seeks to combine the strategies of behavior change with tactics designed to produce a leaner fitter body. “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Sun Tzu Continue reading A Practical Framework for Behavior Change
Behaviors that are incongruent with our identity don’t last. I would argue that if they persist, they will change our identity. At that point, the two will realign themselves. A simple litmus test for determining if a habit is good or bad is the resulting identity it produces. If the habit is a vote for the type of person you want to become, it is a good habit. If it doesn’t, it isn’t.
Identity and habits work in a push-pull manner. We can harness the power of identity to adopt a more disciplined lifestyle. Continue reading The Relationship between Habits & Identity