Let us guess: you’re trying to instil a healthy habit. You know why you want to instil it and the benefits it’s going to have in your everyday life. It’s likely that you’ve already performed the action several times.
But no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get said habit to stick. Maybe you’re starting to think that it’s your fault and you lack discipline. Perhaps you’ve tried multiple times but it still isn’t happening and you don’t understand why.
Sound familiar? We’ve all been there.
The truth is, habit formation is a science. There’s a three-step framework for forming a habit that never fails, which James Clear outlined in his bestselling book Atomic Habits.
And we want to share this with you today so you can confidently build better habits now and in the future. Ready? Let’s go.
What Are the 3 Rs of Habit Change?
Firstly, every habit you have (whether good or bad) follows a 3-step structure:
- Reminder (the cue that initiates the behaviour)
- Routine (doing the behaviour)
- Reward (the benefit you get from doing the behaviour)
If the reward is positive, you’ll naturally want to repeat the routine when the reminder occurs again. Repeat this structure enough times and it will then become a habit.
How to Use the 3 Rs of Habit Change
There are three steps involved if you want to use the 3 Rs to create a new habit in the short term that will stick in the long term.
Step 1: Set a Reminder
A good reminder won’t rely on motivation or your ability to remember your new habit. A good reminder is when you attach it to a behaviour you already do; for example, showering, working out or sitting down for lunch.
Write two lists. In the first list, make a note of everything you do on a daily basis without fail. In the second list, make a note of everything that happens to you each day without fail. These items could include getting a morning text message from a loved one or be as simple as “the sun sets.”
In both lists, you will have several effective reminders for new habits.
Step 2: Choose a Habit That’s Easy to Adopt
It’s important to note that you won’t be compelled to do the behaviour (once you’ve been reminded to do the behaviour) if it’s not easy to carry out.
Habits should be small, manageable tasks that you can incorporate into your everyday life, such as “get an extra hour of sleep” or “start having a green juice with breakfast.” If your habits are bigger like “climb a mountain” then this is a goal rather than a habit.
Ask yourself how you can make this new behaviour so easy to do that you’re unable to say no.
Step 3: Pick a Reward
Lastly, you deserve to celebrate your wins in life. If you do something that makes you feel good, you will keep wanting to do it. Right?
Given that a behaviour needs to be repeated for it to become a habit, you need to reward yourself every time you practice a new habit. This could be something as simple as saying to yourself “good job,” “success!” or “I’m proud of you”.
Alternatively, your reward could be watching an episode of your favourite TV show that evening. It’s whatever works for you so you can give yourself credit for the amazing progress you’re making.
Using the 3 Rs Is All About Trial and Error
The above three-step pattern can apply for any habit. However, you may find you have to experiment with the specifics.
Make sure you only choose habits to adopt that you’re really passionate about so you’re more likely to keep up with the structure. Use trial and error to figure out what will work best as a reminder for you. And reward yourself with whatever it takes for you to want to repeat the process until the habit is cemented in your everyday life.
You’ve got this.