You might know the phrase, “we are creatures of habit,“ but did you know that some psychologists estimate 95% of our behavior occurs out of habit, either unconsciously or in reaction to our outside circumstances? (Schwartz, 2011)
Often we want to make a change in our lives or learn a new skill, but we get overwhelmed by the effort and scope of change needed to actually do it. As I mentioned in my earlier post about reaching a Habit Fork in the Road, willpower is a finite resource and intentional changes or skill-building take work, practice and commitment, with tracking and accountability as major bonuses.
Did you also know that:
- The number one mistake people make is not going tiny enough, according to social scientist B.J Fogg, creator of the Tiny Habits method.
- Conventional wisdom says we need 21 days to lock in a new behavior. Tony Schwartz, author of Be Excellent at Anything, says there has been no credible research to support this assertion. Schwartz says, “The time it takes to develop a ritual is highly variable and depends on the complexity of the new behavior, the level of motivation, and the frequency with which you practice it.”
- Try just four days. One of my favorite authors Martha Beck wrote a whole book on this concept called The Four-Day Win. She says, “I’ve known for a long time that when I can get a client to do anything consistently for just 4 days–writing, exercising, waking up earlier–an initial barrier seems to fall. The new behavior starts to feel normal; life without it seems odd. It takes less discipline to repeat the action.”
- Partnering up with others who are also working on a goal can trigger a concept called goal contagion. In her book on Willpower Kelly McGonigal says, “Research shows that it is surprisingly easy to catch a person’s goals in a way that changes your own behavior. A willpower challenge always involves a conflict between two competing goals. You want pleasure now, but you want health later. Seeing another person pursue one of these competing goals can tip the balance of power in your own mind.”
- Many habits fail because there are no reminders. In The 4-Hour Body Tim Ferris writes, “No consistent tracking = no awareness = no behavioral change. Consistent tracking, even if you have no knowledge of fat-loss or exercise, will often beat advice from world-class trainers.”
I’ve had the intention to really nail my off-the-wall inversions (handstands and forearm-stands) this year in yoga — but you know what? Beyond attending workshops and practicing when teachers happen to insert these into classes, *I* haven’t done much to be proactive about increasing my skills in these areas.
They say practice makes perfect, but I wasn’t making any time for intentional practice. I kept waiting for more time by myself, for my fear to naturally dissipate or to practice before class (which I kept forgetting to do).
It wasn’t until a week-long yoga immersion last week in Tulum that I realized if I want to nail a new skill, I need to treat it like every other habit in my life: Break it down to something manageable, COMMIT, and track the sh*t out of it. Even better if I can enlist a few friends.
That’s the method that works for me, so without further ado I would like to invite you to …
The 5-Day Challenge:
“What gets measured gets managed.” –Peter Drucker
Let’s commit to practicing or doing just one thing for five minutes a day for the next five days. Simple, right?
The goal is to choose an increment of habit-building that is insultingly easy, but my hunch is that even just five minutes might be a big stretch if you’re starting from scratch. And who knows? You might get so into your five minutes that you lose track of time and keep going.
Examples for your challenge could include: writing, meditating, yoga, cooking, walking outside, doing jumping jacks, learning a language, waking up earlier, something from your bliss list, a new skill … anything!
So … Who’s With Me?!
If you’re in, here are the next steps:
- Leave a comment below telling us what you will work on for your 5-min/day challenge
- Make a copy of the super simple tracking template (you knew I’d make one!)
- Track your progress for five days
- Reflect on the three questions in the template
- Report back on Sunday as a reply to your own comment, then I will share in a future round-up on the blog!
For inquiring minds … I will be working on my forearm stand press-ups using the “wild turkey” technique that I learned from my amazing teachers, Phillip and Ivy last week. I will practice in my hallway for at least five minutes a day for five days.
Inch by inch, awkward fumble by awkward fumble, I have found that even just practicing once on each leg on my way out the door is already helping me see progress. Now it’s time to buckle down and really commit, hopefully with some goal contagion and accountability from all of you.