I’ve always enjoyed writing. But as an adult, “learning” to write and sharing my work with the world was a scary proposition. Something I put off countless times before building it into a weekly habit.
Now, writing is one of the most joyful parts of my week. Something I credit to intentionally building a writing habit that allows me to tap into my creative side. Yes, the end goal is to have the words on the paper. But the success of me actually writing is all about the purposefully created experience that leads to the moment I type my first letter.
We can increase our chances of sticking to new habits by purposefully integrating them into our life.
Every weekend I have writing scheduled on my calendar. I go to a favourite spot, either overlooking the beach or sitting at a cosy cafe, depending on the weather. I have my coffee. And as I write, the world continues around me.
I’ve embedded the habit in a way that makes it a delight rather than a chore. Our brains love consistency so following this same routine each week floods my brain with dopamine and allows me to unlock my creativity.
According to Dr. BJ Fogg the founder of Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University, our habits follow a predictable pattern of trigger → behaviour → reward.
Habits begin with a trigger
This alerts your brain to the start of the habit loop. A trigger can be a familiar feeling, sensation or action that you, often subconsciously, associate with a future behaviour. The trigger can be seeing your phone on the counter. Or the moment you finish doing the dishes. Or when you’re sitting on your bed after the kids go to sleep.
In my writing habit loop, the trigger is the moment I sit down in a familiar place and have the first sip of my coffee or smoothie.
Triggers lead to the actual habit
You pick up your phone off the counter and tap the Instagram icon; you finish the dishes and open the cupboard to get a snack, or you sit down on the bed and pick your book up off the nightstand.
As for my writing, I open a blank page and start typing after taking a sip of my coffee.
Doing the habit then leads to a reward
The instant gratification from social media, the taste of sweet or salty snacks, or the enjoyment of getting lost in a book all evoke your inbuilt reward system and provide your brain with that feel good dopamine hit.
For me, the reward is the feeling of having finished my email newsletter. The same newsletter you’re reading right now.
We’re all slaves to our habits.
Once you understand habits, you will start to notice them everywhere in your life. Both with useful (eg writing or cleaning your teeth) and not so useful (eg, late night snacking or social scrolling) habits. You can start recognising the habits that stand in your your way and understand the triggers that lead to the habits you want to reduce.
In contrast, what are the habits that you’re already doing, and would like to do more of? How can you use triggers to make these habits more likely to happen?
In the next post, I’ll explain the steps on how to build, change and break your habits. By making small changes.
Have a winning day!