Building Lasting Habits

I love to order books on topics that will help me in the work that I do and recently I purchased and started reading The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier.  Although it's written for business leaders to better support their employees, it's just as helpful for others who want to move from a place of controlling others to a place of empowerment. Empowering students is what I do and what I help parents and teachers do as well.

The chapter “How to Build a Habit” immediately drew my attention since we’re at the beginning of a new year and I’m developing my yearly goals. I was surprised to find that 45% of our behavior is habitual and runs on autopilot (Duke University study). Habits are subconscious and drive our behavior. They’re why we find ourselves midway through a bowl of chips before we’re even aware that we’re eating them!

Pulling from some of the great thinkers on habits, Michael Bungay Stanier developed five steps to building a lasting habit that work equally well if you’re trying to change a bad habit or if you’re starting something new. 

Make a vow:  Be clear on why you want to build the habit – make it for someone else. Think about how this habit will help someone you care about rather than what the habit can do for you. (Leo Babauta, Zen Habits, Mastering the Art of Change)

Figure your trigger: A trigger is what sets off the behavior and can be categorized as time, location, emotional state, people, or immediately preceding action. The more specific it is, the more useful it will be. (Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit)

Double S: Define the new behavior—make sure it is short and specific. The action should take no more than 60 seconds to perform and by starting small, you will have a much better chance of achieving your goal. (B.J. Fogg,

Practice deeply: Building a new habit is slow and uncomfortable because we need to consciously think about each step. To build subconscious action or automaticity most effectively we should 1) Chunk the action into small parts 2) Repeat this small part over and over and over and over in different ways and 3) Notice when it goes well and celebrate success. (Dan Coyle, The Talent Code)

Plan how to get back on track: Everyone stumbles when building a habit. We’re human! Figure out what to do when that happens before it happens so that you can get right back on track. (Jeremy Dean, Making Habits Breaking Habits)

I plan to use these steps with my 2017 New Year’s resolution (once I figure out what it is!). If you think they might be helpful for you and want to know more, read the book or go to Michael Bungay Stanier’s website which contains short videos on building habits.

Wising you a spectacular New Year,