In his best-selling book, The Power of Habit (audiobook), author Charles Duhigg explains a simple three-step process that all habits follow. This cycle, known as The Habit Loop, says that each habit consists of…
The image below shows how these three factors work together to build new habits.
Each phase of the loop is important for building new habits, but today I’d like to discuss the first factor: habit triggers.
There are five primary ways that a new habit can be triggered. If you understand each of them, then you can select the right one for the particular habit that you are working on. Here’s what you need to know about each trigger…
Before You Choose Your Trigger
No matter what trigger you choose for your new habit, there is one important thing to understand. The key is to choosing a successful trigger is to pick a trigger that is very specific and immediately actionable.
For example, let’s say you want to build a new habit of doing 10 pushups each day at lunch time. You might start by choosing a time-based trigger and saying something like, “During my lunch break each day, I’ll do 10 pushups.” This might work, but it’s not very specific. Do you do your pushups at the beginning of your lunch break? At the end? Any time?
Alternatively, you could create a trigger around a very specific preceding event that happens right around your lunch break. For example, “When I close my laptop to leave for lunch, I’ll do 10 pushups.” In this case, the very specific action of “closing the laptop” is a perfect trigger for what to do next (your 10 pushups). There is no mistaking when you should do the new habit.
As always, self-experimentation is the only real answer. Play around with these five habit triggers and see what works for you.