Create a Habit Loop
There is a difference between a habit and a goal, but we need one to achieve the other, so create a habit loop to achieve your goals
There is a difference between a habit and a goal, but they are very inter related and one depends on the other. To set goals we want to follow our dreams desire and ambitions. Embedding habits requires consistency and repetition. When we repeat the actions needed to meet our goals often enough, we can definitely achieve or even surpass them.
If you are anything like me you struggle to embed new habits. I allow myself to get distracted from my goals or fall into the fatalistic mindset that because I missed one day or one step that has to be the end. May as well not bother. Sound familiar?
The habit loop can be good or bad habits with positive or negative results. It’s our choice how we use it. We are what we repeatedly do which makes us into the people we are, and shapes our values and personalities.
During COVID I stopped going to the gym and didn’t pick it up when it ended. I convinced myself I had valid reasons. My inner tape ran something like this: “I travel a lot so not worth the subscription” and “The ventilation is poor so I may get COVID.” Blah, blah, blah. What I didn’t do was come up with alternatives.
I realized I had to do something about that when a trip to the supermarket became an aerobic workout and I contemplated a lie down in the bottled water section. I also wanted to find time to listen to podcasts and decided to tackle those two goals and embed both habits at the same time.
There is no judgement in this it can be a good or a poor habit.
A habit loop
A habit loop consists of the following stages;
- A cue – I’m tired, I’ve had a busy day at work,
- Triggers a craving – I need something which will make me feel better
- Which motivates a response – I’ll have dessert with my dinner / I will have a bath / I will go for a walk
- Which provides a reward – I’ll get that tub of Salted Caremel out of the freezer / I will run a bath, use nice bath oil, and light some candles / I’ll get my coat and walking poles
- Which satisfies the craving – that was yummy / that was relaxing / that was invigorating
Which ultimately, becomes associated with the cue. And so it carries on in that circle.
But we can all choose our own circles.
Create your own habit loop
1. Set your goal
Set your goal – something you can commit to.
2. Create a plan
Write down the actions you need to do consistently to embed your new habits. Keep your goals real and SMART. Start small and aim for consistency.
3. Stick to your plan – even when you don’t feel like it
The plan in time will become less inspiring and you may feel less motivated to stick with it. This is the danger zone. Think back to what originally inspired you when you selected this goal. Don’t beat yourself up over one slip or retrograde step. Just get back on the metaphorical horse and keep going. It’s not the end of the world.
My plan was this:
✔️ Found a less expensive gym which diminished the financial hit when I travel. It has good ventitation and sanitation protocols. I ignore the fact I am one of the few people over the age of 25.
✔️ Buy new earbuds
✔️ Block off time to go to the gym
✔️ Hold onto that space. That was the hardest piece for me. Give yourself permission for self-care.
4. Reward yourself
Find ways of rewarding yourself when you reach your goal. Your brain will connect the reward with the routine. This could be going on social media after finishing a piece of work, or having a hot chocolate after finishing a walk
I was out of town for 8 days and did almost no exercise at all apart from walking. Since I’ve been back I’ve gone to the gym every day to get back into a routine.
5. Make time to reflect
An important element of embedding a new habit is to make time to reflect on the process and learn. This is where journaling can be useful whether writing things down, or taking photos which is what I started doing. Not of me in the gym clearly. Celebrate your wins and if you had support thank the people involved. There is a science to public gratitude.
I found that listening to podcasts actually helped with the gym goal as I looked forward to listening to my favourites ones. But it could be equally the association of a cigarette with a glass of wine. I’ve been there too which highlights the importance of choosing your loop.
Make a note of your milestones and celebrate your progress (reward) from your starting point. Rinse and repeat. It takes about 30 days to embed a habit. If you fall miss – just pick it back up and keep on going.
Take some time to think about your career goals and strategy today! Use these career reflection worksheets to structure your thoughts.