How can we keep our new habits going?

Question of the week

How can we keep our new habits going?

Hello, hello, hello! It’s that time again. Welcome to your Five-Minute Friday check in. This is our last installment on creating good habits for 2020. First, if you’re new to Five-Minute Fridays, welcome! And second, this will make a lot more sense if you read the earlier posts on making habits Obvious, Attractive and Easy.

If you’ve been following along, I hope you’ve developed some good cues for your new habit (made it obvious), built in some internal guardrails and motivation to do it (made it attractive) and made it as easy as possible to follow through (made it easy). Now we keep that habit going by giving you a reward and making that habit satisfying.

James Clear, the habits expert we’ve been highlighting all month, breaks down the cardinal rule of behavior change by stating “What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.” Consider, for instance, how people build up credit card debt – buying things provides immediate gratification, while the pain of paying for them is delayed.

Human beings are wired this way. So, instead of trying to fight this very natural response, we harness it and use it to our advantage. Here are four ways to help make your new habit satisfying:

  • Use reinforcement: Give yourself an immediate reward when you complete your habit.
  • Make “doing nothing” enjoyable: When avoiding a bad habit, design a way to see the benefits
  • Use a habit tracker: Keep track of your habit streak, and “don’t break the chain.”
  • Never miss twice: When you forget to do a habit, make sure you get back on track immediately.

How can you reward yourself for good financial habits? Many people really enjoy watching their savings accounts grow or seeing their debt disappear. Creating a spending plan for yourself and seeing an immediate benefit really gives you an incentive to keep going. If you want even more incentive, label the savings account with its intended purpose: “Trip to Germany” or “Date night” or “Family Fund.” Seeing progress toward your goals will help you move towards what you want. If not taking action is your challenge – not shopping, or not going out to dinner – make your reward something free – take a walk, a nice bath or read a book.

Clear’s habit trackers help you visualize your progress. He gives several examples, but my favorite is having a calendar that you simply mark an X on each day you’ve completed what you intended. You see the progress, as well as the chain of days you’ve put together. Or keep a progress list – just a list of things you’ve accomplished towards your goal. As time goes on you see that list get bigger and bigger.

What if you mess up? It’s not the end of the world. The fourth rule—never miss a habit twice—allow you to get back on track. There will inevitably come a time where you will miss a day. That’s completely okay. My favorite phrase is progress, not perfection. Get back right on the horse and keep going.

Quote of the week

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle


Task of the week

This may be my favorite task yet. Go ahead.  Reward yourself! Think of a way that you can measure and see the progress you’ve made. Make sure that this reward aligns with your ultimate goal of more freedom and financial independence. Track your progress—and take pride in what you’ve achieved. I’d love to hear what you come up with!