You’ve read the studies. You’ve downloaded the apps. You’ve put time in your calendar. You know that meditation has tremendous benefits, but you just can’t make it a habit.
Then this article is for you!
The problem is not you, your motivation, or even your willpower. It’s your approach to forming habits.
Habits are formed through a habit loop (source: Charles Duhigg), which is a cue, routine, and reward. A cue reminds you to do the routine, which you do because you get a reward. When I get out of bed in the morning [cue], I drink coffee [routine], and feel more alert [reward]. The reward [alertness] reminds me to do the routine [drink coffee] when I come across the cue next [get out of bed].
If the routine is sufficiently hard, we need motivation to do it. This is where habits break down. We want to do hard things (e.g. meditate for a few minutes), our motivation inevitably faulters, and we don’t do them.
The trick is to pick actions that require very small amounts of motivation. BJ Fogg, a behavior change researcher at Stanford, has developed an approach called Tiny Habits to break free of the reliance on high motivation. Instead, you add small, incremental habits that have compounding effects.
Tiny habits must be ridiculously tiny. They should be perceived as easy AND take 30 seconds or less. To start meditating, all we do is think of a cue that is obvious, a routine that is tiny and will nudge us to meditate more, and a reward to reinforce the behavior.
If you want to meditate in the morning, cues might be “after I get out of bed,” “after I finish my coffee,” “after I brush my teeth,” “after I get dressed.”
Your routine might be “I will sit in my meditation spot and open up my meditation app or timer.” That’s it
And the reward, after you do the routine and before you start meditating, if you even start meditating, will be to celebrate. Thrust your arms up into the air and shout “I’m awesome!”
In 5 days you will develop a routine around sitting in your meditation spot. And that will eventually lead to meditating more.
Do you want to join a 5 day Tiny Habits program to support you? Reach out to me and we'll get you set up.