How the A,B,C’s can change our life
“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits, and their habits decide their future,” says F.M. Alexander.
One of my all-time favorite quotes.
1: This week we are exploring the different components of philosopher Brian Johnson‘s formula for self-mastery. Our goal is to use “our willpower wisely to install habits that run on autopilot.”
Self-Mastery = Willpower + Habits + Algorithms.
Yesterday, we examined what role willpower plays. We tend to think that willpower is the key to making positive change in our lives. And while it is part of the equation, the power of habit is far more important.
“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine,” John Maxwell writes.
In his terrific book The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy writes: “What people don’t realize is that these small, seemingly insignificant steps completed consistently over time will create a radical difference.”
2: So, how do we create new and better habits?
It’s as simple as A, B, C, Brian suggests.
A is the anchor: After I do ______
B is the behavior. Then, I will _____
C is the celebration. Then, I will celebrate by ______
We map it out. We are intentional. We do it by design.
It begins with A, or the anchor. To create a new habit or eliminate an old, unproductive habit, we must understand the role of triggers.
We’ll focus first on installing a new habit. We begin by finding an existing behavior or action. Something we are already doing. That becomes a trigger for the new behavior.
Here’s a simple example. My doctor suggested I start taking vitamins that need to be taken with food. Every day, I eat lunch. That’s my trigger. Every time I go into the kitchen to make lunch, I take the vitamin bottles off the shelf and put the vitamins on my napkin.
The first couple of days required a bit of willpower. I wrote myself a note in my Bullet Journal. I wrote a reminder on a post-it note. I told myself I didn’t want to forget. The anchor (A of A,B,C) was lunch, an existing behavior, something I already do every day.
B is the behavior itself. Take the vitamins off the shelf. Put them on the napkin. After I finish lunch, take the vitamins.
B.J. Fogg, a behavioral scientist at Stanford University and author of the wonderful book Tiny Habits suggests the new behavior should be small initially. He suggests we go tiny. We want to remove the friction. Make it easy to win.
Let’s say we want to do push-ups first thing in the morning after we wake up (part of my morning routine). We begin with one or two push-ups. Not twenty. Not the maximum number we can do.
We make it easy. So it would be silly not to. One minute. Or less.
Brian observes we don’t create habits for when we feel motivated. We create habits for when we are the least motivated. We start with the tiniest behavior we can think of.
Install. Then, optimize.
Tiny. Then, transformative.
To create a new habit, we focus on A, the anchor, B, the behavior, and then C for celebration.
Celebrating may feel odd at first, but B.J. tells us it is the key to installing new habits. It is the first thing he would teach us. Celebrate immediately and intensely. It can be as simple as pumping our fist. Or, pausing to feel the joy of the moment. We can say, “Yes!” or “That’s like me!” one of Brian’s favorite expressions.
Our goal is to link our behavior to a celebration.
Celebrating is a skill we can get better at. We can practice the art and skill of celebrating.
3: How do we delete a habit?
Same A, B, C formula. We focus on A the anchor, B the behavior, and C the celebration.
We start by seeking to understand the prompt or anchor. What is the trigger that leads us to do the behavior we want to delete?
Then, we remove the prompt, the trigger, the cue. We make it harder.
So, he removed the remote control from the coffee table. He put it in a box on the top shelf of his closet. He made it harder to watch TV.
Prompts are the invisible drivers in our lives. Out of sight. Out of mind.
Brian tells us to play offense, not defense. It’s much easier to avoid temptation than to try to resist it.
What’s one extra step we can add to make the behavior harder to do? How can we increase the degree of difficulty?
If we want to eat less junk food, don’t buy it at the grocery store.
Think about what the trigger is. And remove it.
Reflection: Reflect on the one habit I could start or stop which would have the greatest impact on my life.
Action: Commit to starting it. Today.