What will be different for you in 2019?

I know many people make new year's resolutions. Personally I don't. Several years ago I adopted the three words approach that I picked up from Chris Brogan. I'll post my three words for 2019 on January 1. No peeking early.

Whatever method you use, or even if you don't have an actual January 1 ritual, I have recently read a couple of books that have some interesting insights into routines and habits. I thought this time of year would be a great one to share some of the insights I got from those sources.

In gamification there is often a discussion of the differences between using extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. While we encourage people to leverage their learners' intrinsic motivations, the reality is that sometimes we need to use a little extrinsic nudge. Intrinsic motivations can keep a learner engaged over a long period of time, but they don't always create a sense of urgency or spur action right away. Extrinsics, on the other hand, can act as that little jolt needed to get things moving. 

WOOP there it is

I bring this up because it is somewhat similar to the findings of Gabriele Oettingen in her work, including the book Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation. Among her findings was that positive thinking just isn't enough. People actually go into a more relaxed state when they just focus on their wishes and dreams. Because our mind creates the image of success already happening, we are less likely to take action to actually make it happen.

But she proposes a method called WOOP to move the person forward to achieve their wishes with higher rates of success. You can view the WOOP Toolbox of videos to get more of an overview, but the basic formula is to come up with a a Wish, to envision the Outcome, to visual the obstacles, and Plan what to do if the obstacle occurs. She has found that the combination of positive thinking combined with a healthy dose of reality yields much better results that positive thinking alone.

Baby steps makes giant leaps

The other book was James Clear's Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. I can't do the book justice in the small space I have in this piece, so I will loop back in later posts with more about this book. For now I am just going to say that this book is gold. It comes from a combination of research and personal experience, it breaks things down beautifully simply, and even gets into the bad side of habits and the problems with goals and topics you might not expect.

I will leave you with a couple of nuggets for now. First, stack your habits. What does that mean? Well, you will have a much easier time adopting a new habit if it is tied to one you already have so you can take an approach of once I do this thing I am already in the habit of doing, I will also do this thing that I want to start doing as a habit. I have used this one in the past and it is definitely a winner. I shared how I used this process in one of my newsletters. (Hey, have you subscribed to the newsletter?) Again, so many great ideas in this book. Stay tuned for more about it.

What's the best way to track my progress

One of the other concepts that Clear talks about in Atomic Habits, and one that is a personal favorite topic of mine, is the motivational power of progress. But how do you know if you are making progress if you don't track things? Well, it can be hard, so find a way that works for you.

I have used various forms of tracking. Here is a list of 24 Best Habit Tracking Apps (2018 Updated) you can peruse. Of course, pencil and paper are still excellent tools for tracking your progress. Everything doesn't have to be digital. I haven't found my perfect system yet but I keep trying. I used to use HabitBull, but mostly I use a paper calendar/planner. I like having something tangible that I can put where I see it throughout the day. Do what works for you. The result is what is important.

So let me know what new habits you are working on, or that you would like to help others, such as your learners adopt. See ya in the new year.