Adopting new habits is hard! What a shame: New Year’s resolutions could represent such a bright spark of optimism. Instead, they’re a clichéd punchline on the futility of human will. Certainly, my own past attempts have deserved those jokes!
But in 2017, I shifted strategies and successfully built four new habits (of five attempted): piano practice, internetless mornings, carbless workdays, and meditation. In past years I’d feel lucky if I built just one new habit! I’d like to share my approach: smoothly ratcheted targets, in moving weekly windows, with teeth. Before I unpack that, let’s cover some background.
Chaining is basically “cold turkey” habit adoption: start doing it every day—and don’t break your chain! This approach combines an incentive system (maintaining streaks) with an adoption system (“start doing it every day!”). Streaks can offer a powerful incentive for an established habit, but they do little for fragile new habits. It’s the adoption strategy that really matters initially, yet “start doing it every day!” is a brittle—and, to me, unrealistic—adoption strategy.