Hot Topic: Let’s talk two cool dudes who know a whole lot about habits.
Do you want to be a habit-forming, positive-action check-in whiz?
By Sara Hopson, Manager of Community Engagement @sahopson
Here at DailyFeats, as you’ve noticed, we’re all about good. A few months ago as we started to delve more into how we could actually be motivated to do more good on a daily basis, we realized it needed to be about more than checking in feats and feeling pleased with oneself. I mean, the stamps are awesome, and all, but… is that enough?
It needed to be about forming habits, really changing our behavior. And since two of our co-founders (Meghan and Vinay) have backgrounds in neuroscience, that behavior change research got pretty heady.
But we emerged with a new frame of mind: DailyFeats would be about arranging the good you do by the things you’re trying to accomplish in your own life, hence: goals. And to really hone in on what needs to happen for the wheels of behavior change to start turning, we looked to behavior change expert BJ Fogg (it’s worth your time to learn more about his work). BJ even visited the office a few weeks ago to give us some feedback on the website and how we might help you feel more celebrated in the ways you’re improving your life. (Hence, the 100 points bonus for checking in your first feat of the day, and the new kinds of “props”.)
Watch this video of BJ talking about why Facebook is so addicting:
I, personally, started my own research by picking up a new book by NY Times Bestseller, Charles Duhigg. The Power of Habit is an engrossing and entertaining read, surprising in many ways, and it completely changed the way I think about my own behavior and the innumerable habits we all have without even realizing it. Since I finished it, I’ve found myself bringing up examples from the book in casual conversation - at Easter dinner, with my boyfriend, even in groups of relative strangers. ”Did you know,” I’d begin excitedly, “that brushing your teeth with toothpaste is totally a habit that was started by a cue in advertising?” I’ll admit, my penchant for re-watching Mad Men episodes has only amplified my interest in The Power of Habit, but, the dude’s really onto something.
So, how does this all tie into DailyFeats? Well, it turns out that the research around habit formation boils down to basically this: you do something (your habit/routine) because you’re triggered by something else (also called a “cue”), whether that be a time of day, a physical sensation, or an emotion. What results from that is some sort of reward; not always something awesome but even just a slight change in your mood, a stress release, or a distraction. That reward reinforces the habit, so the next time you are exposed to the trigger or cue, you naturally repeat the behavior that brought you the reward.
Duhigg, in his book, gives oodles of fun examples for ways to change this or how it can function - even in ways you might not notice or understand right at the outset. These habit things are kind of complicated, but once you grasp that fundamental loop, you can change the routine in a way that will still make you feel rewarded.
At DailyFeats, we use text messages or e-mails as ways you can remind yourself to do a certain action (I’m setting up my !cardio reminder as we speak!). That’s basically a cue and a routine. Your reward? Well, it’ll vary from person to person. Some of us are just happy to be able to check in and get points, and then perhaps comments or props from fellow members. That’s gratifying, and some of you have told us that it feels like you’re being thanked for doing something you already do but don’t get acknowledged for.
Others of us are rewarded by the outcome of the action. This is pretty self-explanatory: you work out, you lose weight and feel healthier. You tell your significant other you love them, they say it back, and you feel happy and secure in your relationship. You donate to charity, the organization thanks you and you feel satisfied in having given back to a cause that matters. In interviews he’s done for the book, Duhigg often cites an example about breaking the afternoon cookie habit simply by understanding how it was rewarding him and what he could do instead, to get the same reward.
These things all seem simple, right, when it gets right down to it? Problem is, we too often allow our habits to form unconsciously, so we can easily get into slumps of bad habits without realizing we’re doing it. Proactively setting up good habits and changing your behavior may seem daunting, but the great thing about habits is how easily they form and how automatic they can become.
You can also learn to “piggyback” your habits. This means doing a certain action in conjunction with another, like leaving your floss by the couch where you watch TV at night, so you’ll remember to floss while you do something you are already used to doing (see above image). Combined with automated reminders, this can be an incredibly powerful way to change the behaviors you’re itching to get rid of. We hope that DailyFeats can be a helpful piece to that puzzle.
Pssst… Duhigg’s website has some more truly great resources if you’re interested in this. I especially dig this Study Guide for those of you who are in the education field and want to share this with your students, and this handy Guide to Changing Habits.