Just like a building is supported with scaffolding until it’s ready to stand on its own, so too are our habits. Take a quick glance at some of the habits you’ve been able to successfully maintain and you’ll notice that it was not will or commitment that kept them in place in the early days; you had help. You had scaffolding.
Take, for example, a habit I have recently begun to plant with my husband. Our goal was to have a weekly meeting, a time each week to reflect on the week ahead and consider what needed to be prioritized, what we could use each other’s support in, and what activities and commitments we had going on individually and as a family.
Meeting weekly is the habit we aimed to create. The scaffolding looked as follows:
- I created a template with prompts for us to complete each week.
- I printed out the template and placed it on our bathroom counter on Friday as a physical reminder to fill it out on Sunday (our decided upon meeting day).
- Our meeting involves each other, which means there is outer accountability baked into the habit (we’re accountable to each other that it happens).
- We set a reminder for Sunday morning in our phones.
- We both add it to our weekend ‘to-do’ list.
- We have the previous week’s template taped to our bathroom mirror.
As you can see, we’re using: (a) physical cues, (b) digital reminders, (c) outer accountability, and (d) we’re making it easy to focus on key topics by using a template.
Before we begin to work on a new habit, we’re served by taking some time to consider the invisible mechanisms that support our ideal behaviors. When we do, we can learn to deploy these supports with intention and, in my experience, build stronger habits, faster.
Below you’ll find a list of types of habit scaffolding. Which ones are you currently using or have used to support a new behavior?
Ease of Execution
The simpler a habit is to perform, the more likely it is to be maintained.
Habits that fit easily into your lifestyle or routine are more sustainable.
Being physically close to the tools or locations associated with your habit can boost adherence.
Enjoyable habits are more likely to be repeated.
Finding personal joy or satisfaction in a habit encourages consistency.
Doing habits with others can increase motivation and enjoyment.
Making it Fun/Social
Incorporating elements of fun or social interaction can enhance habit adherence.
Placing a new habit within an established routine can help it stick.
Positive peer pressure can reinforce commitment to habits.
Spending money on a habit can increase commitment to maintaining it.
Being accountable to someone else for your habit can increase adherence.
Cost of Not Executing
Awareness of the negative consequences of not maintaining a habit can be a strong motivator.
Visual Cues/Digital Reminders
Seeing or hearing reminders or cues can trigger habit actions.
Implementing a reward for completing a habit can provide additional motivation.
Monitoring your habits can provide a sense of accomplishment and motivation to continue.
Having a specific time for the habit every day or week can establish consistency.
Setting Clear Goals
Having specific, achievable goals related to the habit can guide and maintain focus.
Evoking positive emotions can light up the brain and reinforce the importance and benefits of a habit.
Understanding the benefits and techniques of a habit can increase commitment.
Personal Values Alignment
Aligning habits with personal values can provide a deeper motivation for maintaining them.
Your Habit Secret Sauce
Think about your day from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep. I bet you can see that you’ve got a lot of habits and that they each had some support in order for you to build or maintain them.
I highlight this because this is really useful data when we’re attempting to build new habits. Using willpower and motivation alone to build our better behaviors is simply an incomplete strategy. In actuality, we use all sorts of support systems to create our own unique habit building formula. Take a look at your existing habits and you’ll start to see your secret sauce.