Have you ever felt like you were torturing yourself when trying to develop a new habit?
Like not drinking coffee or making breakfast everyday instead of grabbing something on your way to work?
It can be hard to make a new habit feel like second nature and something you wanna stick with.
One of the podcasts I listen to recently featured author Gretchen Rubin and her new book Better Than Before. It’s a book about developing lasting habits. I found it so fascinating that each of us has a habit ‘personality’. What motivates one person isn’t necessarily going to motivate someone else to form a similar habit in the same way.
Regardless of your habit personality, when it comes to rewarding yourself while developing new habits, there’s a common approach that can be useful. And you do want to reward yourself, right? I mean, who doesn’t love a present?! ;)
Rewarding Habits to Make Them Last
You want a habit to feel automatic. Like getting dressed or having a shower. That kind of automatic. It's something you choose to do because there’s a payoff. (Feeling human? Check.)
I’m always working on ways to help my clients build lasting habits. To help them reach their goals. Plus, I love understanding and learning how us humans work. Learning about our tendencies never gets old for this one.
When developing a habit you often want to reward yourself. But depending on the reward, according to Gretchen, it can be working against making the new habit last.
If you want the habit to feel automatic, reward yourself with something that’ll take you deeper into forming it, rather than taking you away from it. Rewarding yourself with something that’s the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve only makes the habit burdensome. And you end up feeling deprived. Which means you’re most likely not going to stick with it.
For example, say I’m trying wanna make my breakfast every day. If I do this every day for a month, to reinforce the habit, I might want to reward myself with a new high powered blender. A reward like this will help make mornings easier as I have the option to make smoothies, etc. Having tools that saves you time + makes working in the kitchen easier will help reinforce the new habit.
If you choose to reward yourself with something like going out for brunch, you’re not reinforcing the new habit. This type of reward takes you away from your intention.
I’m not saying don’t go out for brunch. Definitely go if that’s fun for you. Make the reward something that encourages the habit, instead taking away from it.
Say you wanna build the habit of eating greens everyday. Rewarding yourself with a burger, isn’t going to reinforce it. You’ll be left feeling like the habit is depriving you. Then you’re less likely to keep up with it. A reward that could take you deeper into the habit, might be to buy a cookbook. One loaded with delicious, inspiring recipes that make you excited to eat greens because you’re learning new (yummy) ways to prepare them.
Choosing a reward that takes you deeper into a habit helps it feel like second nature.
I remember I had a goal of running a half marathon. I put in the time and miles to achieve this goal. But because I didn’t make it a habit (it was only a goal), once I finished the race, I didn’t run for weeks (maybe months ;)) after. I was like 'Wihoo! I’m finished. Now let me go back to my regular life.'
A goal brings about a sense of achievement and often has an end date. Once you’ve met both, you’re not motivated to keep it going afterwards.
But, if you wanted to build the habit of running, your reward could be a new pair of running shoes, or sneakers (potato, potato). New shoes would help reinforce the habit, making you more likely to continue running.
See the difference?
If you want to make your habit feel second nature, reward yourself in a way that encourages you to keep going. It’s like setting up your own little sideline cheering team of ‘Woot, woot! You can do this!!'
Are you trying to develop a habit that lasts? What’s one way you can support building it? Share with me in the comments below.
This is not a sponsored post. I found the theory really interesting. Here’s a link to the podcast, in case you like this stuff like me.
To developing new habits,