The Wonderful Thing About Triggers

Have you ever wondered why it can be really, really difficult to create a good habit?

You might have a bunch of good habits you’d like to add to your routine:

  • Organizing your to-do list the night before so you’re not scattered in the morning.
  • Exercising every day so your muscles don’t turn into mush.
  • Blogging regularly so your readers know your business is still open.
  • Calling your mother so she doesn’t think you’re dead in a ditch somewhere.
  • Flossing your teeth for real so you can stop lying to your dentist.

But sticking to a new habit can feel impossible when we’re already stuck in our old ways.

Our neural pathways become used to doing things a certain way. These pathways are like well-worn groves in a walking trail through the woods. It’s not an easy journey if you hop off the path.

Creating new good habits means your brain has to create new pathways, and that takes time and effort…something most of us don’t have when we want something yesterday.

For a while, I had a problem of diving into my emails as soon as I got up before taking the time to set my intention for the day, look over my goals list, or meditate.

I’d get so caught up in replying to clients or watching funny cat videos that I’d completely blow off my self-care.

Now I meditate every morning because I found a better way to train my brain to accept this good habit.

I use a trigger habit.

What’s a Trigger Habit?

You know how people who have an exercise buddy workout more often than people who go it alone? Well, linking your new habit with a “buddy” will help you stick to it.

You already have tons of habits that are ingrained into your routine. I assume you do many of the same things every day such as brush your teeth, drive to work, check your emails, eat lunch, etc.

To create a new good habit, use an existing habit to “trigger” it.

For example, I linked my new habit of meditating every morning with brushing my teeth. As soon as I put my toothbrush back in its holder, I go to my office and meditate for 5 minutes.

I was already doing one habit at that time (brushing my teeth) so it was easier to add in another habit at the same time (meditating). Now I feel more centered every morning without getting distracted by my emails.

Your Trigger Habit

Here’s how to set up your trigger habit:

  1. Think about the new habit you want to create and the time of day you’d like to do it.
  2. Find another activity you do at that same time. Choose one that is so ingrained in your routine that you do it on autopilot.
  3. Link the new habit to the old one by doing it immediately after the familiar activity. The old one will trigger the new one.

After a few weeks, new neural pathways will be formed in your brain so the new habit will be a seamless part of your routine without you having to struggle to do it.

That’s the wonderful thing about triggers! (‘cuz triggers are wonderful things…)

What new habit are you trying to create?

In the comments below, share the good habit you want to create and the familiar trigger habit you’re going to link it to.

This post focuses on Step 3 of the Life Editing Process, Add Good Habits and Routines. For more about life editing and what it can do for you, click here.

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  1. Dacia Dyer on June 2, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    Such a great and easy way to change habits! I’ve tried a lot lately to add in new habits kind of on their own, but linking them together with already firmly established habits sounds like a much simpler way to get the routine down. 🙂 I’ll give it a try!

  2. Cathy Colangelo on May 18, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    So “they” say lifting light weights every other day can help me get rid of my “bingo arm” (the jiggly junk that hangs out the car window). I’ve been wanting to try it for a month and see what happens. My familiar trigger habit is washing my face and brushing my teeth in the morning. I put my little weights and the magazine pic with the exercise instructions in my bathroom. It’s just a couple of minutes and before I even walk downstairs, I’ve gotten this little “exercise” checked off for the day. One day down. More to go. I’ll keep you posted on the transformation of the “bingo arm”. Thanks Sage!

    • Sage Grayson on May 21, 2016 at 4:51 pm

      Lifting weights is a great way to firm up those jiggly areas. 🙂 I like how you paired it with a trigger in the morning so you do your exercises before the busy-ness of the day starts. You can do it, Cathy!