Northern Sweat

Making A Habit of It: Part 2

By Alyssa Walker

“Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” – Swami Sivananda

Quick re-cap from Part 1:

  • Think Big, Think Small
    • Visualize the big picture and big goal
    • Make micro quotas: the minimal amount of work you must do each day to attain your goal
  • Visualize Then Attack
    • Visualize your goals in detail and all aspects needed for you to accomplish your goal

Let’s continue and build off of those two key points!

If-Then Planning

Anyone who’s dabbled in computer science will enjoy this next section about if-then planning. It revolves around the idea of forming a new habit using a pre-existing habit as a basis. If-then planning creates a strong link between one situation and a reaction to that situation. “If this happens, then I will…” moments can create chains of actions. Making a new habit part of a chain of actions can help that new habit become automatic.

The if-then technique is also great for times when you don’t want to do something–times that I call “Screw this!” moments. For example, if you feel too tired to run, why not first listen to some inspirational music to get motivated? Or if you have no idea what workout to do for the day, how about looking at the daily workout suggestions on your Workout Trainer or Nike Training apps?

Studies on the aptly named “What the Hell Effect” also help to explain how small moments play a big role in the formation of new habits. We are extremely likely to abandon ship when we slip just a little from a very rigid routine and drop all the progress we’ve made. This is where those low threshold quotas and clearly articulated and visualized goals come into play to prevent the “What the Hell Effect.”

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

To make your habits stick, be environmentally friendly: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! “But wait, Alyssa, I thought we were talking about health and forming habits…” We still are! Let’s steal from the 3Rs campaign and use it for health. First off, Reduce the number of options for your behavior. Saying,“Today I will run,” could mean, “I will run for 10 minutes,” “I will run 3 miles,” or, “I will run to the kitchen.” An overabundance of options leads to stalling and demotivation. Even President Obama exercises the Reduce technique, saying:

“You’ll see I only wear gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make too many decisions about what I’m wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

Making too many decisions about mundane details is a waste of your precious time and energy. Decision fatigue affects us all. Reduce your options and save your energy for the more trying choices. Reuse exercises and be consistent as part of those daily quotas and process-based planning. “Every Monday I will do yoga for 7 minutes after I brush my teeth.” As for Recycle, maybe your habit includes a plan for performing an action 5 times a week. Recycle that habit back into your schedule every week.  

For lasting change, the steps you take must ultimately change your environment and schedule.

But beware of becoming a robot. Ask yourself if what you’re doing is getting you closer to your goal. We sometimes engage in automatic behaviors not because we’ve really thought about them, but because we’re unconsciously copying other people. That’s where automatic behaviors can become the enemy. So while you’re trying to be consistent and specific in creating new habits, take the time to try new things, keep it fresh, and every so often evaluate whether or not what you are committing to do is enough.

To wrap things up, don’t obsess, just remember that a lot of habit building is founded on rituals, schedules, consistency, and triggers. Most imprtantly, keep in mind that progress comes over time. Be patient with yourself; building new habits is a challenge! So, in the Japanese spirit, “Let’s Challenge!”

Check out the next issue for advice and reviews on my favorite apps and websites for fitness!

Habit Formation
What The Hell Effect
If-Then Planning more If-Then Planning
Columbia Motivation Science
Process-Versus Outcome-Based Mental Stimulus on Performance
Zeigarnik Effect
Self-Determination Theory
Stanford Professor B. J. Fogg

Did I miss something? Do you disagree with any of the above, or does it resonate really strongly with you? Just have something you want to say or share? Please email us at


2 thoughts on “Making A Habit of It: Part 2

  1. Pingback: May 2015, Vol. 2 | Good Morning Aomori produced by Aomori AJET

  2. Pingback: Make Me Do Stuff! | Good Morning Aomori produced by Aomori AJET

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