It’s been over 9 months since I adopted 3 ‘networked’ habits to test if I could make them more resilient than stacked habits in the face of change. This is one of the four intentions that I set for myself during my 2016 yearly review. Since then I have:
- Transitioned from being single to having a partner
- Moved from East London to North London
- Managed a new commercial partnership
- Traveled a total of 8 weeks
In the past, any one of those situations would have thrown me off the wagon. Changes to workload, routine and certainly life stage have historically had a big impact on my foundation habits. However, this time I’m thrilled to report that I am still consistently eating healthy (38 AmazonFresh orders placed in 2017), walking (at least 1:30 hour ~4x/week), and meditating (~4x/week). The walking is either to commute, attend meetings or even as a meeting itself).
Of course, I’m still linking the new activity to another one that was already deeply embedded. The difference is that I’m not layering other new activities on top precariously. There is a one-to-one relationship between the habits that I have consistently done for years and the newer activities that I hope to take root.
Also, I’m being much more realistic about what is sustainable, where I might have historically had a much more ‘all or nothing’ attitude. If I am unwilling to meditate for 2 hours like the vipassana guru recommends, at least I can consistently achieve 15 minutes. If I won’t run 5km every morning, at least I can embed 6hrs of walking into my week. Perhaps eating spinach soup for lunch every day is unreasonable, but following Michael Pollan’s food rules certainly is.
The more recent habits are also implemented in a way that reinforces them in a ‘networked’ way. Having healthy food in the house means that my partner and I cook together more than we might otherwise. It also saves me money on lunches out. Walking frequently allows me to think about and reflect on my work. Walking meetings change the nature of the conversations I have with others. These additional benefits to maintaining these activities also help to reinforce those behaviours.
Here’s what is working for me:
- Thinking carefully about how to design the new activity to make it reinforcing (i.e. combine it with other activities I enjoy and value, such as spending time with people I care about).
- Making sure the old habit I link to is deeply rooted and not context specific (e.g. I always set an alarm regardless of where I am).
- Having clarity about how I prioritise these activities. Sufficient sleep is more important than walking, eating a healthy breakfast is more important than meditating.
- Being aware when the old habit is uprooted and making adjustments accordingly (e.g. changes to travel patterns).
Let me know what works for you!