Become Better With Better Habits

Recognizing the habits you want to change is a big step in the right direction. How do you go about this and identify not only the triggers to your habits but the triggering environments? Become better with better habits for yourself and your partner in three easy steps.

become better with better habits

Recognize Triggers

Ryan and I have been learning to maintain healthy habits (and avoid the bad ones) by recognizing the “triggers” that set them in motion. I recently read an excellent book called, Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts – Becoming The Person You Want To Be by Marshall Goldsmith. The author is an expert executive coach who teaches you to become aware of the trigger/stimulus that causes your behavior.

Often you’ll find a pattern in the type of environment your trigger is likely to happen. With awareness, you’re able to pause and make the right choice that you won’t later regret. One benefit of being in a couple is that you can get constant feedback and insight into what triggers certain habits. Together, you can become better with better habits.

Understand The Behavior Loop

I am writing this article from the airport. Airports are notorious environments for poor behavior. Passengers are always rushed, stressed, and feel entitled as paying customers. Thus, at the slightest hiccup to plans, some people act entirely out of character and yell at airline agents.

These passengers have the opportunity to increase awareness and accept that they’re in a stressful environment, the airport. This environment has triggers, such as flight delays, that lead to poor actions. These actions, such as inappropriate cursing, have negative consequences like disapproval from fellow passengers or, worse, getting removed from a flight.

A Typical Behavior Loop:

Environment → Trigger → Action → Consequence

By becoming aware of specific environments, you can immediately be on guard for triggers that will set you off. Think about the health goals you and your partner set for yourselves this year. Have you ever made these same goals before in prior years? How are they working out?

Before our wedding in 2017, I had a lot of motivation to work out every day. I wanted to look lean in my wedding dress. I also needed the extra energy and focus provided by a good workout to get through a busy workday and night of wedding planning. Even though I both wanted and needed to exercise, it was still a daily challenge.

Every morning, I gave myself a 30-minute window to roll out of bed and start my morning workout. Simple, right? My gym was only as far as my living room, but simple doesn’t mean easy. The problem was my environment: a cozy, warm bed.

So, since I wasn’t going to change this environment, I recognized the need to change the trigger: my phone alarm. I started putting my phone outside in the hallway, which forced me to leave my “immobilizing morning bed environment.” Furthermore, I made a choice easier by placing my phone on top of my workout clothes.

While this almost always worked, on the days it didn’t, Ryan was my last resort to kick me out of bed. One of the many great benefits of working out as a couple. I also knew that our Duo Life Community would be watching for my daily accountability posts! 

An Example Behavior Loop:

Let’s use Ryan as an example. He regularly found it challenging to eat healthy while entertaining customers. Day after day when he worked in corporate, Ryan came home feeling gross from an overly large lunch or dinner and regretted losing the commitment of healthy eating.

However, he felt it was a mandatory part of the job and felt pressured to match the client Texas barbecue after barbecue, beer for beer. Here is how his Behavior Loop played out:

Environment: A restaurant full of temptations and “free” (aka company paid) lunch

Trigger: A client ordering a beer, piled high plate of barbecue, appetizer, or dessert

Actions: To beer or not to beer? To barbecue or to grilled chicken with steamed vegetables?

Consequences: Short term pleasure/client acceptance or long term nutrition goals

Ryan became aware that eating in a restaurant with unhealthy clients was a triggered environment capable of derailing his health goals. Therefore, he was able to pause for that millisecond before ordering to weigh the consequences. It’s wasn’t always easy, but Ryan’s awareness forced a healthy decision.

Yes, his clients and colleagues made fun of his salads at BBQ joints – but only at first. After customers saw his consistency, a few of his clients started following his lead by ordering smarter, and often the conversation turned from work to health! A win for everyone!

Read more: Our health tips for business travel.

Use Triggers To Correct Behavior

1. Remember you’re in control

While your environment influences you, it doesn’t make the decision for you. In many situations, you’re able to modify your environment. Ever feel like you overeat at your parents’ house over the holidays? A Cornell University study found that people ate 22% less food when switching to a 10-inch plate from a 12-inch plate.

2. Streamline your routine for the best success

Research shows that driving to the gym, even just a few minutes out of the way, makes you less likely to go. Without a doubt, building a home gym will increase the chances of working out.

3. Eliminate negative triggers

With added awareness of triggers and environments, you can proactively steer clear of negative situations. You don’t drive into sketchy areas at night, so why would you stop by the office snack room after 3:00 PM when you’re tired and your willpower is low? The potential for problems is too high.

Share your triggers and plan to correct your behavior in the comments below.

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The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “lifestyle engineers.”

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