When it comes to making significant changes, less is often more! Let’s look at what research is showing us about creating new habits, as well as learn a little trick that will actually help you rewire your brain.
Oftentimes we fail at these changes because we bite off more than we can chew and then feel bad about our progress (and ourselves). By doing these two things we prove that we don’t really understand how successful lasting change is made.
If you really want to make a big impact in your life, start with a teensy-tiny goal. According to behavior scientist, researcher, and author Dr. BJ Fogg this is the best way to make change. In his book, “Tiny Habits,” he encourages you to make your habit ridiculously easy to do.
So, if you want to start reading more, don’t decide to read for 30 minutes every night before bed, simply decide to open a book everyday. Do you need to floss your teeth more? Make your goal as easy as flossing one tooth each night.
I know what you are probably thinking, it’s silly to aim for that when I need a more drastic change. You are right, these little changes by themselves won’t accomplish what you want to achieve. But they will start you on the path towards the change you desire.
Seamlessly Fitting Them In
Once you pick a ridiculously easy habit to work on, choose exactly when you will do this easy action. Think through your day to find a place where this new habit will fit naturally. Then, couple this new habit with something you already do each day.
Perhaps reading will work best for you when it is finally quiet at your house for a short time in the afternoon. Couple your practice of opening a book with something that you do around that time each day, like clearing the table after lunch. Or perhaps your days are crazy, but you would like to read for a few minutes before bed. Decide to open your book right after putting your pajamas on each night.
By pairing the new action with an established habit, you will be able to remember your new action and incorporate it into your current routine. This allows a natural flow to be established much more easily and eliminates the need for other reminders.
Celebrating Brings Victories
Now for the little trick that can literally help you rewire your brain. Celebration! That’s right, when you celebrate even your littlest accomplishment, you are pairing a pleasant emotion with the action and this can make a big difference in developing a habit that sticks.
Every time you do the action you set out to do, it is a victory. Think through how you can deliberately create a positive feeling in these moments and draw attention to the accomplishments that you are making. Perhaps talking to yourself like you would a child - “good job, you did it” - will make you smile. Or you might like to simply state “victory” when you follow through on your new habit.
The goal is to make these actions become natural and automatic. According to Fogg, “one of the functions of emotion is to rewire our behavior... If you do a new behavior and you feel successful… then that behavior your brain will take notice.. (and) it will become more automatic.”
The Bigger Picture
You may be surprised to find that the tiny goal, coupled with an established action and celebration, quickly becomes a habit bigger than the one you began with. This is commonly referred to as the domino effect, the concept that one action sets off a chain reaction that leads to other changes.
So you may begin reading more, which leads to less time watching television, which leads to less blue light before bed, which leads to better sleep, which leads to more energy, which leads to better focus at work, which leads to…
Part of this dynamic is that when you start to achieve your goal, you will feel better about yourself and gain momentum to make other changes. Your energy from this success gives you a huge boost to be able to accomplish so much more than you started out doing!
I know some of these methods sound cheesy, and too simple, but go ahead and give them a try! You likely spend enough time telling yourself that you aren't doing enough. Now it’s time to congratulate yourself and get excited about the positive things that you do!