Human behaviour has intrigued me for most of my life. Why is it that people do what they do? This is a big question and not one that I would suggest that i know the complete answer to. However behavioral economics (this is a fancy study of why people make the choices they do) can give us lots of hints.
When it comes time to adopting a new habit (behaviour), whether it be a morning run, starting a savings plan or giving up the cigarettes, focus is everything. Let me explain more: people who usually only succeed short term with their new habits tend to focuson everything that they have to give up with their new habit. For the morning runner it is the sleep in they will miss, for the new savings plan it might be the instantaneous pleasure from the impulse purchase, for the smoker perhaps its that momentary buzz that happens from taking that first “drag”. People who are successful longterm at maintaining their habits on the other hand tend to focus on what they are gaining. The morning run brings more energy for the partner and children, greater focus and engagement at work, that inner feeling of accomplishment. The new savings plan provides a sustainable future, provides direction, allows you to save for something worthwhile and the list of benefits for giving up the cigarettes are endless.
The simple matter of directing your focus is absolutely essential to the long term success of your new habit. This doesn’t mean that you won’t occasionally miss the old but if the benefits of the new are big enough then chances are you will pull through.
When talking to my clients about beginning a new habit I always like to talk to them about what they will get out of it. The bigger the list and the more enticing the benefits the easier the change. So before you dive into that running program, savings plan or new diet take a moment and write down all the fabulous things you can expect as a consequence. It is a good idea to have this list with you for the first 21 days – take a look at it when you are feeling weak.