This article is about three effective and fairly easy-to-remember ways to acquire a new habit. When I was young, I remember reading an enlightening and empowering newspaper article. It was by an author who claimed to have read most if not all the self-help books related to acquiring new habits for his graduate studies. He apparently discovered that all the methods that he had encountered could essentially be distilled into three methods. Unfortunately, this was prior to the age of the internet and I cannot find the article online. Notwithstanding, I list the three methods first and then expand on them.
- Create visual cues,
- Share the habit with another and
- Reward yourself.
Create Visual Cues
The basic idea is to facilitate acquisition of the habit by modifying one’s environment. He had suggested, for example, placing a Post-it note on the bathroom mirror with a reminder to floss the teeth, run in the morning or say something loving to oneself or a significant other each day. One could place a yoga mat in a corner as a reminder for meditation, stretching or yoga. With the ubiquity of the smartphone, one could also enter regular reminders of the target habit into one’s calendar. In the context of kendo, I made a kendo “dummy” and placed it in the home. This way I can easily remember to grab a shinai to practice strikes or suri-ashi.
Share the habit with another
The basic idea here is accountability by making an agreement with another. He had suggested, for example, scheduling runs with a buddy or a weekly day and time that one, along with room-mates, could clean the house. I believe this is one of the approaches used by Weight Watchers where members are encouraged to meet regularly and check their weight against a goal weight – according to a friend who is a member of that group. When I was in high-school, a classmate and I agreed to study the S.A.T. together, learn some number of new words each week and test each other. Perhaps joining a dojo is another example of this approach as one makes an agreement, in a way, with sensei‘s and fellow dojo members to practice kendo regularly.
The basic idea here is to reinforce a behavior or habit by rewarding oneself when one follows through on the behavior. For example, one could treat oneself to a nice dinner after practicing Intuitive Eating, completing homework consistently, doing a chore or running each day over a week. In the context of kendo, one can reward children with a prize after they manage to complete some weekly challenge (e.g., 50 or 100 suburi each day).
I am grateful to the author for distilling the various methods of habit acquisition. His words have helped me immensely. May all be well with you 🙂
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