For the last post of the habit series, we’re going to look at rewards, tracking our actions, and providing the motivation necessary to improve our habits.
If you want to improve your habits, then reward your good behavior
“Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.” – Booker T. Washington
Our first post covered how to establish meaning in your life and why purpose contributes to better habits. The second post included how controlling your environment will improve behaviors. Today, we conclude our habit series by discussing how rewarding yourself and tracking your actions enhances your character.
Bad habits provide easy rewards: junk food gives a sugar rush, staying in bed offers comfort, and smoking relieves stress. However, good practices do not offer immediate rewards. Exercise is painful, sleeping on time is dull, and eating well can be a tasteless experience. Therefore, if you want to stick with good habits, you need to reward yourself for your efforts.
Additionally, tracking your actions provides evidence of progress and improvement. Furthermore, tracking your habits as they develop allows you to know what to tackle. If you notice you’re eating more junk food than usual, you can take steps to lessen your consumption.
Make A List Of Your Good and Bad Habits
To start, you need to make a list of your good and bad habits. Be as honest as possible. Highlight your laziness, smoking, and frequent coffee breaks. However, also highlight your consistent tooth brushing, your dedication to kindness, and your work ethic. The goal of listing habits is to increase your awareness of where you are, what you’re doing, and where you’d like to go.
Forming habits is about honest conversations
“For the future, the motto is, ‘No days unalert’.” – Robert Greene
Next, you’re going to look at your list and explain, in writing, why you do what you do. Why do you participate in a specific bad habit? How does it make you feel? Good? At ease? How do you feel after the initial high wears off?
For your good habits, take stock of what you think. How does it feel to have good habits? How does it feel to succeed in developing the behaviors you need to excel? How did you develop these good habits and what can you do to keep them going?
Because of the exercises in the first post, you know where you’re going and why you’re going there. Furthermore, answering questions about your habits engages you with your actions in the present.
How To Reward Good Habits: Track Your Actions, Habits, And Rewards
Track your actions. When you track your daily activities, you can note your progress. An example is wanting to avoid junk food. Take note of all the days you’ve avoided junk food. When you look back on your calendar and see more “win” days than “lose” days, you’ll be inspired to keep up the habit. You’ll see your progress, and you’ll want to maintain your momentum.
Additionally, having a clear record of your good and bad habits will keep you honest. Being objective is crucial to self-improvement. We need a detached voice telling us exactly when we fail and when we succeed. Why? Because objectivity removes ambiguity and irritation when pursuing self-improvement.
Lastly, tracking your actions helps you see the time and energy investment involved in building better habits. Thus, you can develop patience with your shortcomings and occasional failures. Maybe you dipped back into junk food. However, through tracking your actions, you see more “win” days. Seeing your successes is crucial to motivating your self-improvement and keeping negative voices quiet.
Different Ways To Track Your Habits, Actions, and Rewards
“Never let a thought remain unrecorded or unexamined.”
I keep track of my habits by writing down the offending practice and dating the occurrence. Furthermore, I spend a few times a week reading about my bad habits and why I want to rid myself of these nuisances. By constantly reflecting on my desires, I can remain focused during the day.
You can track your habits through a tally system, on a calendar, or through a small notebook in your pocket. When you act on your habits, you need to note the time and date. If you have the opportunity, note your emotional state before, during, and after you committed the offending action. For example, if you feel shame after wasting a few minutes on your phone, then acknowledge your guilt. Later on, you may feel more inspired to overcome your habit once you see how much negative emotions it causes.
Although hard and painful at first, tracking your bad habits can help produce the awareness you need to change your behavior.
Hack the Habit Loop: Allow others to help you track your habits, actions, and rewards
If you have the allies, have others keep track of your habits. Involving others in your personal growth will improve your chances of success. Your friends can hold you accountable, keep you honest, and create shame when you disappoint them and yourself.
There are many ways you can involve others. For example, you can hold quick, weekly reviews with your allies. Let your people know where you are, what you want to accomplish, and what they can do to help. Additionally, informing people you’ve failed at overcoming your bad habits will harm your self-respect and their confidence in you. Therefore, stay honest and fight your bad habits, so you don’t let others down.
Another solution is prodding. For example, if you want to reduce your time on the phone, let your partner help. Your partner can ask what you’re doing when they see you on your phone. If you’re unproductive, they can request you put the phone away.
Recruit People Based On Their Connection To You
You can get people involved based on how close they are to you. For example, work buddies can help you with work habits while your internet friends can help you with a writing habit.
Recruiting different people prevents overburdening those very close to you. Additionally, not everyone can help you with overcoming a bad habit. Your partner is perfect for helping you overcome a personal addiction while a work buddy needs less TMI. However, a work buddy can criticize you for wasting time on the web. Your partner cannot be as responsive to your occasional trips down the Wikipedia rabbit hole because they’re not physically at your job.
Lastly, offer to help others overcome their bad habits. You are an individual, but you must remain loyal to those who are loyal to you. If you can help a virtuous person grow into a better individual, then help them.
How To Develop Good Habits: Rewards For Good Behavior
“Stay the course.”
We’ve covered tracking your bad and good habits. Let’s delve into rewarding good behavior.
Habits form because they give you a positive feeling. Bad habits are hard to shake because they provide quick rewards. On the other hand, good habits provide stability in the long-run. However, pursuing healthy, stable behaviors will not make you happy in the present.
Therefore, if you want to stick to your good habits, you need to develop rewards. Rewarding your good behaviors will help positive habits stick. For example, if you focus on your work, then reward yourself with a snack. The more focused you are, the larger the snack.
Reward Your Efforts: Find a hobby and invest in it
Not all habits are bad or will lead to your self-destruction. Some bad habits are legitimate hobbies. However, your hobbies become bad habits because you lack self-control. For example, I love playing video games. Playing video games becomes a bad habit when I lack moderation. Therefore, I invest in video games as my hobby or my “bad habit.”
Why is this important? Well, I want to develop my good habits. However, all good habits are long-term benefits with very few short-term pleasures. Brushing your teeth, exercise, journaling, and drinking water daily are good habits that benefit your future self, but not your present person. Because there are few quick benefits, you’re less likely to follow your better inclinations.
However, if you dangle a reward, you are more likely to engage in better habits. This is why I suggest investing in a hobby or a “bad habit.”
Bribe Yourself: The More Important the Rewards, The More Driven Your Efforts
For a reward system to work, you need to find a hobby you love doing. I set time to engage with my hobby of playing video games. When I accomplish specific tasks or maintain certain behaviors, I play a video game as a reward.
How does this work? Firstly, I track my actions, and I set clear goals. For example, “brush your teeth daily” is a system I have to maintain. If I maintain my brushing habit for one week, then I can play games on the weekend.
I may keep a large white board which I can mark. Or, I may take notes on my phone. Either way, I know I have to be honest with myself. If you want to reduce the shame surrounding your hobbies, you need to be accurate. Have you really earned your play time? Are you really pushing yourself? Don’t worry – the longer you track your actions, the easier it becomes.
Engage In Other Bad Habits Less
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” – Mother Theresa
How far should you push yourself to earn a new reward? Always start small. Brush your teeth today, and you’ll get to indulge in your hobby at the end of the day. However, keep pushing the goal post, and you’ll challenge yourself in ways you never thought possible.
Additionally, you’ll find yourself engaging in other bad habits less. For me, video games are the only bad habit I allow. Eventually, I found other behaviors less interesting. I stopped watching YouTube videos, eating junk food, and wasting time. I narrowed my focus to video games.
Take Your Hobby Seriously
With video gaming, I’m able to reward myself for accomplishing good habits. I take my time seriously, and I try to avoid shame and guilt. For example, I include missions within the game on my list of daily goals. Therefore, I take my time within the game world as seriously as my other goals.
I don’t want to be ashamed of my hobby. I want to feel rational pride. I want to love the time I can spend pursuing what I find fun and enjoyable. The shame comes from overindulgence. However, being overindulgent is hard when I view my free time positively.
Habits are formed and defeated through clever planning
“Becoming the type of person you want to become — someone who lives by a stronger standard, someone who believes in themselves, someone who can be counted on by the people that matter to them — is about the daily process you follow and not the ultimate product you achieve.” – James Clear
Your habits are created or defeated by intelligent planning. Be aware of where you want to go in life. When you have a life purpose, a firm sense of identity, and an understanding of your legacy, you become self-aware of how your actions do or do not align with your future vision.
Additionally, when you control your environment, you create the tools needed to produce the best habits. Control what you consume, who you associate with, and where everything is located. The better your environment, the easier it becomes to improve.
Lastly, track your actions and provide rewards. Never work for free. If you are making positive, meaningful improvements, then reward your efforts with fun time. Find a hobby you enjoy and invest your energy into one hobby at the exclusion of all others.
- What is one bad habit you feel you can’t live without? Is there a way to turn this bad habit into a hobby?
- Do you have any hobbies now? What do you like about them? How do they contribute to your happiness?
- What’s a good habit you want to form? How can you reward yourself for pursing this good habit?
- Atomic Habits by James Clear – The book which inspired this series, Atomic Habits is the definitive book on habits. James covers how to build better habits, overcome bad habits, and the wisdom of controlling your environment to become the best version of yourself.
- Habit Hacks #2: Use Cues and Rewards by Sofia Carozza
- How Habits Work
- The 5 Triggers That Make New Habits Stick by James Clear
- Hacking Habits: How To Make New Behaviors Last For Good by Jocelyn K. Glei
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.