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B2S Part Six: The Science of Developing a Habit

Okay, how did you do with the five steps from last week? They were:

*Action Step #1: Clarity – Did you write out your family statement and commitment for the new school year? Remember, people do not lack motivation. They just lack clarity.

*Action Step #2: Environment/Culture – Did you go Back-to-School shopping with your child to set up “their” home classroom? Set them up for success.

*Action Step #3: AM Routine – Did you decide on a morning routine with your child? Did you do it yesterday? Remember, the most important part of the day for success is the first hour.

*Action Step #4: Optimize for the Start – What does their daily start look like? Make it easy by just focusing on the most important part, the start. Just teach them the habit of “showing up”.

*Action Step #5: Structure and Schedule – Did you have a rough draft of your initial daily schedule? Don’t expect it to be perfect . . . yet.

I was thinking the other day, starting the “new” school year strong is really about much more than school. It is really about learning how to develop habits. I have to honestly say, this is without a doubt the most valuable life changing skill we can give you at this dojo.

Today, I wanted to share the last step. This step is probably the key to long lasting success for habit development.

As a quick review. There is a science to developing good habits:

Step 1: Become aware of, then choose your energy/emotional STATE

Step 2: Be intentional on what you FOCUS your mind on

Step 3: Use the right STRATEGY (action plan)

a. First, set them up for success

i. Make it Obvious – People do not lack motivation, they lack clarity. Be crystal clear and decisive.

ii. Make it Attractive – Set up a Routine/Culture/Environment they like.

iii. Make it Easy – We are lazy by nature. Focus on just the starting line, chunk it down.

iv. Make it Satisfying – We are attracted to things that give us pleasure or satisfaction. Not a reward but use linking.

b. Then shut up and do the reps – REPETITION. Commit to - “I may miss a day, but I will never miss a second day, ever!”

Step 4: In the end, your habits become your IDENTITY. (I am a runner. I am a life-long learner. I am a reader/writer. I am an athlete. I am a straight “A” student.)

Let’s get to the last two action steps – Make it satisfying.

We are attracted to things that give us pleasure or satisfaction. We avoid things that bring us pain or discomfort. Another problem we have involves immediate gratification. The benefit or payoff for most of the things that are good for us are not realized until later. For instance, if you choose to eat the burger instead of the salad, right now you are immediately given the pleasure of eating the delicious burger, while the healthy results of the salad will not be seen for months or even a lifetime.

Another complicating factor is the world our children live and are growing up in. Face it, we live in an immediate gratification world. Whatever we want we can get it now. If you are hungry, you go through a drive-thru or get delivery. If you are bored, you grab your smartphone. If you want to buy something, you order it from Amazon and get it the next day. Any wonder children today have less patience?

We need to take full advantage of these factors as we learn to develop our new habit. Here is how – use the tools of an immediate reward and linking.

Action Step #6: Immediate Reward – Make it satisfying. This is going to take some creativity and detective work on your part. We need to find a way to bring some type of immediate “feel good” to right now, as soon as we do the new habit. Every person and child is different. Find out what your makes you child feel good. (*The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman is a good place to start.)

How can you add reward and excitement? Here is a good example. A lady wants to start running every day. She has started many times before but always seems to struggle after a few months. She needs a more immediate reward than just knowing she will be healthier and fit. So, in a box she places 90 clear marbles and 10 red ones. Every day she runs, she draws a marble out of the box and places it in a glass jar. On top of that, if she draws a red marble she gets to buy herself a gift. Not only does she get pleasure from seeing the jar fill with marbles, but she gets the excitement of the chance of drawing the red marble. (Kind of why slot machines and gambling are addictive.)

But here is a reward we can use that works for most people because humans are visually oriented:

*Action Step #6: Immediate Reward – The “Habit Tracker”. People and kids love to see their progress. Think about it. Stars on their paper. Stickers on their work. Patches and belts on their uniforms. We can take advantage of this because we have already been using this with our SEL Habit Charts. Our next SEL Packet will have a Habit Chart to record our success at accomplishing our AM Routine and our “start”(the first 30 minutes of our school day). See and use the attached “Ohana SEL Lesson #12 - I always start STRONG!” Then just use the habit chart.

*Action Step #7: Linking – Make it satisfying. Another tool to help you is linking. This is linking already well-established habits, especially ones you like or draw pleasure/satisfaction from, with your new habit. Say your child loves to read. Then just link 20 minutes of free reading time right after they start their school day. You could do the same with singing, dancing or shooting basketballs. (Try to avoid rewards involving a screen or video game.). Then just simply build this link into your daily schedule. That is it!

(*Note: This is not a reward. It is different. You are not rewarding or bribing your child to do something. You are instead “linking” the two habits or activities together.)

Let us know how you are doing because we are here to help you!

Embrace the change. Stay strong.

Yours for stronger kids,


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