It’s one month into the new year...how ‘bout those offline resolutions? If you’ve already slipped up, no sweat. Only about 8% of Americans actually achieve their New Year’s resolutions. That’s still not an excuse though to stop reaching for your goals, regardless of the time of year. Goals are naturally meant to be challenging, but also within reach. Remember, the more specific your goal, the more likely you’ll be able to accomplish them. If you’re stuck, try one of these specific offline goals for size. Yes, start with one.
Sticking with resolutions is really about forming new habits; that’s why it’s so difficult! Success begins with understanding how habits work. In this past weekend’s “Phones + Families” Meetup, we had Family Educator, Lucia Soqui, of Parenting Tidbits, join us to share some tactical tips on how to control the Habit Loop. Based on the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, habits follow a 3-step loop:
This cycle is our brain’s way of chunking steps into automatic routines in order to conserve brain power for more intensive functions. Using this knowledge, you can figure out what habit is getting in the way of reaching your goal and hack it. The first step begins with awareness of what triggers the routine. This may take some introspection to properly pinpoint.
Let’s say your goal is to get to bed one hour earlier than usual. Picture your evening routine and try to tease out what bad habit you want to change that’s preventing you from getting to bed. For the sake of this example, let’s imagine it’s the lull after dinner and you and your family settle down on the couch. Perhaps it's phones that you bury yourselves into or Netflix takes center stage. Before you know it, you’ve launched a binge fest of screen time and it’s well past bedtime. When applying the Habit Loop, this breaks down into:
Now that a potential cue has been identified, you’ll then have to ask yourself whether the reward is what you are actually craving. Is it truly effortless entertainment? Or perhaps you’re actually just craving social time with your family. Once you’ve identified the reward you’re seeking, experiment with different routines that could deliver that reward.
For example, if it is indeed effortless entertainment you’re seeking after dinner:
Try switching the medium to audio instead and play a podcast. Just be sure you don’t have it on auto-play of the next episode!
If instead, it’s social time with your family you’re wanting:
Switch from moving to the couch to taking a family walk or playing a game together--something that is still time-bound that can get you to bed earlier but still satisfies your craving of socializing with your family.
Identifying the right cue and reward pair could take several attempts, but don’t get discouraged! It will enable you to have more self-awareness, which is half the battle. What can help is tracking your behavior by jotting down the number of times you catch yourself doing your bad habit, such as the Netflix or phone binge fests.
You’ll know you’ve successfully hacked your habit when after 15 minutes of trying your new routine, you no longer crave the old routine.
To try this out on your own, download Lucia’s handy worksheet below on How to Control the Habit Loop. We’d love to hear what new routines you are trying and what works (or doesn't work) for you!