Stop. Right. Now.
When it comes to changing behavior, we are always battling with the momentum of our lives. Without deliberate thought, we will always default to what we have done in the past, and the longer we have done something, the harder it will be to change to something else.
If someone has driven home from work and immediately turned on the television for 10 years, it will be hard to break that habit. If someone always wakes up and immediately starts looking at their phone for the last 5 years, they may break out into a sweat if they think about skipping this in the morning.
Even with years of reinforcement, we can use a frequent moment throughout our days to build new habits.
The opportunity, the tool, we are going to use is called “the transition.”
Any time we shift gears, any time a significant event happens, is a transition. Waking up, getting to work, opening our email… these are all transition points.
Any time we transition between activities, we have the chance to make a change. The key is to notice these opportunities, and to make a deliberate choice to do something other than our natural inkling.
The framework to use in these moments is called “No. Right. Now.” (originally posted about here)
The way it works is simple. During the transition, we must interrupt our pre-programming by saying “No”. Just say no to whatever was about to happen, to let you step back and make a conscious choice about what happens next. If you want to check Facebook, say NO. If someone asks for a few minutes of your time, say NO. If your computer pings you to notify you that you have a new message, say NO.
The key is to wake up your conscious brain and to interrupt the pattern. We want the part of the brain that strategizes and plans to jump in.
The next thing is to decide on, is what the ‘Right’ thing is to do next. You probably know what you should do, it won’t take a lot of deliberation. It is probably something that you have been trying to get done for a while. Eating healthier, getting to the gym, getting more work done, etc. I could also be something that you have been putting off (starting that project, doing a ‘chore’, etc.).
The critical part is to figure out what is ‘right’ for that moment, and not just the most urgent. Urgent things may seem important, but they aren’t always what is best for us long term. Checking to see if your colleague responded to your email may feel ‘urgent’, but finishing what you were working on is probably more important. On the flip side, eating healthy or going to the gym is important, but rarely urgent. Train yourself to choose importance over urgency.
Start doing the important thing, the new routine, starting the chore, building the habit, RIGHT NOW. Not after you have scanned Facebook or Instagram. Not after you have turned on the TV. Do it right away! Do it before you have time to think, or find an excuse.
This procedure jives with what we know about the ‘habit loop’.
The habit loop starts with a stimulus or trigger, then we follow the routine, then we get the reward. By hijacking the normal transitions that we must go through each day, we can wake up our brains to help us make a better decision. We can do the ‘right’ thing and not just the ‘normal’ thing that happens without thought.
Make it Stick
To make these new habits stick even better, figure out ways to acknowledge your progress or reward yourself. Finished typing that long email you’ve been putting off? Reward yourself with a nice walk outside and remind yourself how it feels to get it done (maybe even check it off the ‘to do’ list). Stay focused for a few hours without checking social media? Reward yourself with a 20 min (timed) Facebook session. Avoid eating that mindless snack right when you walk in the door? Go take a hot bath and read that novel for a while. Drive to the gym instead of going straight home? Treat yourself to a nice home cooked steak or some episodes from your favorite Netflix show.
The closer in time the reward is to the ‘right’ routine, the better the reward will reinforce the new behavior. It doesn’t have to be related to the behavior itself, but it should to be something that will make you feel good or something that you can look forward to.
Start using this new tool immediately. After you finish this article (and share it of course), stop what you were about to do (tell yourself “NO”). Ask yourself what is the best thing, the important thing, that you need to do right in this moment (“Right”). And then do it right “Now” (“Now”).
You are going to find yourself doing this many times throughout the day. At times it will be difficult to make some of the changes, but you will get better with practice (and good rewards).
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh
Thrive on. -jj
Fit for Life.