How a Habit Change Program is Developed
As you hopefully saw from the video in the post “What is Habit Change and How is it Obtained,” you saw that the most effective way to change a behavior or a habit is to change small pieces of that habit one at a time. The trick is to identify the major habits you want to obtain, break them down into tiny pieces – I call them skills – place them into a logical, progressive order, and attack them one after another, building the skills as you go.
What skills should I use? Well that is up to you based on your goals. However, I will use the Nomadic Physical Wellness System to provide an example on how I chose the skills necessary.
Pre-Step: What is the big picture goal? NPWS’ Big picture goal is to obtain and maintain physical wellness while abroad for long periods of time.
First: I identified the three major categories to physical wellness:
- Physical Fitness;
- Nutrition; and
- Healthy Mindset.
Second: Within those three categories I identified an important and healthy behavior:
- For physical fitness, it was to move well and move often;
- For nutrition, it was to stay hydrated and eat whole, well balanced foods;
- For mindset, it was to reduce stress and create self-efficacy (which is to belief that you are able to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a task).
Third: Within each behavior, I identified habits that supported that behavior:
- For physical fitness, it was:
- Exercising 5 times per week;
- Improving movement ability and quality; and
- Identifying the types of active things you enjoy doing and those you don’t.
- For nutrition, it was:
- Eating 3 to 5 servings for females, and 6-8 servings for males, of macros per day;
- Eating whole, unprocessed foods; and
- Drinking 2L of water per day
- For healthy mindset, it was:
- Teaching you how to identify and change your own habits;
- Teaching you how to be flexible and forgiving in your actions;
- Teaching you how to plan for success;
- Teaching you how to learn from mistakes; and
- Getting enough quality sleep.
Fourth: With those habits, I broke them down further into the 24 skills and a series of worksheets and exercises to be performed in a logical order, progressing and building on a consistent schedule.
Each skill identified in the NPWS was a positive skill. This means that you are trying to actively accomplish something. A positive skill allows you to see success and you will know it when you do it. A negative skill, which is when you are trying to simply not do something, you can never really succeed, you can only wait to fail.
Each skill is given its own 2-week timeframe to be introduced because that timeframe has been shown to be sufficient for a new task to begin to formulate as a habit. It may not be fully a habit at that point, but after two weeks it will begin to feel easier and, as such, opens up a more capacity for you to add on another new skill.
As the skills build on each other over time, you will begin to not only reflect the healthy behaviors that were the original goal, you will also – because of the 80% rule – have a greater knowledge and appreciation for the less-than-healthy habits that are important for you to keep, in some capacity, in your own life and the less-than-healthy habits that are really not important for you to keep and easily worth dropping. Make sure to monitor these trends and preferences so that you can adjust your skills over time.
How Should the Habit Change Plan be Performed?
At Flex Fitness OT, a New Skill is introduced every 2 weeks. Most of the efforts, planning, and exercises you will do will be focused on that New Skill. However, because each prior skill is combined with all the other prior skills and are cumulatively continued along with the New Skill you will still be responsible for all prior skills introduced up to that point.
Sometimes a New Skill is exactly that, a New Skill that has not before been requested of you to do. For example: Week 15 & 16 is “20min of mindfulness/de-stress each day” and Week 17 & 18 is “drink 64oz of Water each day.” These are new actions you have not done prior to that time.
Other times, a New Skill is the advancing of an already performed new skill. For example, Week 13 & 14 is “exercise 4 times per week.” This is a build from the week 1 & 2 skill of “exercise 3 times per week.” By the time you add the 4th day, you will have already been exercising 3 times per week for three months. Adding 1 additional day won’t be that big of a deal.
Each skill has been put in its particular place in the system for one or more of a number of reasons, such as the building approach I just mentioned, or to teach a sub-trait to assist with a later skill, to push harder at times and to reign back a bit at times, or to account for the physical or mental state you are likely in at the time that New Skill is introduced.
Each New Skill will need to be performed 80% of the time for the 2 week period it is a New Skill. Additionally, and separate from the New Skill, the continued skills need to be performed 80% of the time as a whole.
For Example: if it you are on week 5 and 6, your New Skill is “A Little More, A Little Better.” Your Continued Skills are “Exercise 3 Times Per Week” and “Record What You Eat & When You Eat It.” In this situation, the New Skill – “A Little More, A Little Better” – must be performed 80% of the time in and of itself. The Continued Skills must be performed 80% of the time cumulatively, meaning if you were 100% compliant with exercise but only 70% compliant with recording what you ate, then you are 85% compliant as a whole, so you are good. This allows for you to choose what to be more strict with and what to be more lax with, specific to your preferences.
By the end of the entire program the skills you have obtained will support the healthy habits that feed the healthy behaviors that lead to overall physical wellness.
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