Woman Holding CupHumans are creatures of habit!  That’s not a criticism, it’s an observation you can embrace to make your day run more smoothly. 

Now granted, habits can be good or bad.  Put down that beer, it’s not playtime yet!  French fries for breakfast?  I don’t think so! 

Today we’re going to talk about developing good habits and maybe even getting rid of some bad ones.   


What Does It Take to Develop a New Habit?

A plastic surgeon back in the 1950s named Maxwell Maltz noticed that it took about 3 weeks for his patients to get used to the new look he’d given them using his scalpel. 

Being a smart guy, he also realized this same general time period was what it took for him to get used to anything new in his own life. 

Maltz began writing about his observations and ended up with a best seller called: “Psycho-Cybernetics, A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life.” 

Psycho-Cybernetics was one of the first works defining the mind/body connection, or the concept that what we think has a big impact on how we feel, and vice versa.  

The mind/body connections espoused by Maltz evolved into many of the modern personal empowerment programs available today.  So, if you have a desire to build new and productive habits, this is the proven roadmap to follow. 


The Structure of Habits

Habits can be broken down into 3 components

  1. The trigger
  2. The action
  3. The reward

For example, let’s take a common bad habit of eating too many sweets. The trigger might be when you drive past the donut shop. 

The action would be to stop and get a dozen donuts. 

The reward can be spelled YUM-YUM! 

An expanding waistline is not the reward that keeps bringing you back to the donuts.  In fact, that unpleasant fact is something you probably deny to yourself because you like the YUM-YUM part so much. 

Reward is a huge part of all habitual behavior

Rewards for good habits can be a feeling of satisfaction, a shrinking waistline or a fatter bank account.  The problem is that these rewards usually take a long time to experience while the effect is an immediate YUM-YUM with a mouth full of donuts.  (I suggest the lemon cream with powdered sugar. They’re a mess, but OMG!)  


Reward Yourself! 

One reason it can seem a lot easier to develop bad habits than good habits is the reward component. 

Most bad habits have their own inherent reward that’s immediately felt.  Good habits don’t.  You can eat healthy all week and not really get any tangible or noticeable reward for it. 

Research shows that one of the biggest predictors of failure with habit modification is a lackluster or nonexistent reward.

So, if you want to be more successful in developing good habits, you have to reward yourself if the habit itself does not immediately give you some kind of boost. 

Now, who could argue with that?  It’s a scientifically-derived excuse to indulge yourself.  The trick is to not go overboard.


Ways to Reward Yourself

There are lots of great ways to reward yourself. Some might seem a little childish and silly but they’re also easy.  Stickers!  Give yourself a gold star for every healthy meal you eat in a week.  Then at the end of the week when your scale discounts your efforts, you’ve got a tangible reminder that you actually accomplished your goal, but the scale is just not cooperating. 

Here's a list of other fun, easy and inexpensive rewards you can bestow upon yourself.

  • Nice, long hot shower
  • Extra “me” time doing whatever floats your boat
  • Extra relaxation time, such as reading, watching TV, or chatting with friends
  • Buy an inexpensive something like a new scarf or new lamp
  • Write out a journal entry full of self-congratulating kudos


It can seem awfully self-indulgent to reward yourself, and that is probably why a lot of us don’t do it. But remember, if you are trying to develop a new habit, you got to have a reward!  Instead, some new habits we’re trying to develop seem like torture! 

Don’t you fib and say a 5 a.m. workout makes you jump out of bed shouting, “Oh, goody-goody-gumdrop.Time for pushups.”


Set Realistic Goals

Another basic premise to follow when setting out to develop new positive habits is to not reach for the sky right out of the gate. 

Set goals that are truly obtainable.  If you’re overweight and haven’t exercised in years, you’re probably not going to be ready for a marathon in a week’s time.  Six months maybe, and a full year, definitely you’ll be marathon ready but don’t sign up for the race this weekend. 

In other words, one step at a time.  Small goals, or baby steps, will eventually turn into giant goals. Today, you run 3 blocks. In a month, you run 3 miles. In a year, you run a marathon.  


Work Goals

When it comes to your work life, setting goals is the best way to keep your career on track and raise your level of professionalism. 

Do you want to be the boss instead of one of the bossed?  That’s a great goal, but let’s break it down into smaller steps.  How can you demonstrate leadership at work? 

  • Increase your job skills with extra training and self-study
  • Propose innovative ideas and follow through on them to the benefit of all
  • Demonstrate self-motivation by taking on tasks not required of you


Here’s a way to fit all 3 of those steps into one activity.  Take it upon yourself to learn some important new skills by signing up for some online training.  For example, SAP software is used by 90% of the world’s companies.  SAP certification is one of the hottest job skills you can have right now. 


Transforming Your Work Goals Into Reality

A recent look at the job board Indeed.com showed 130,000 job listings with SAP skills required.  The pay on average is about 90 grand a year and up!  SAP certification can put you up in the 120 and up range.  

An increased salary, along with greater job security, are definitely goals worth working toward and because SAP professionals are always in such hot demand, those rewards are just waiting for you! 

SAP training courses are available online at reasonable prices.  You can customize the courses you take in order to specialize in the specific niche that’s right for you. 

If you follow the science of habit formation and take baby steps and give yourself a good reward, you’ll find your life improved for the better. 

Author Photo

Lorraine Grula is a curious and compassionate Okie native who grew up on politics and science. She loves to read, write and study the world and shares her insights in our blog.
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