Habit Formation Plan: Breaking my latte addiction.
I’m going to go ahead and warn you: my next few posts aren’t going to be very sexy. I’ll be sharing my goals for this quarter as practical examples for anyone working through Pace & Pattern, or on goals in general. Sharing my goals feels a little vulnerable because they aren’t big and impressive - actually they are pretty small - but they are small changes that I'm pretty sure will help make my ordinary a little better. Big things happen a little bit at a time, right?
I mentioned in my last post that I’m having a baby in early April (3 under 3, eek!), so most of my goals this quarter are centered around practical ways I want to prepare for the big, beautiful and terrifying change coming our way. I’ll be focusing on one goal in each of the main goal categories: habits, rhythms, and projects.
First up: My habit- Drink coffee at home at least 5 days a week.
This is probably my most embarrassing goal. The percentage of our budget that goes towards sugary, expensive lattes is ridiculous and out of control. There are some thrifty changes we’ve made that have been a walk in the park: Buy clothes secondhand? Sure, absolutely. Use the library instead of buying books? Easy. Cook in rather than eat out? No problem. But making coffee at home has been a real challenge for me. I made this same goal last January and did a good job sticking with it for a couple of months; but then I weaned Max, and dairy was back on the scene, and I couldn’t resist the siren call of whole-milk vanilla lattes: I fell back into my old ways.
What makes this so hard:
It’s helpful for me to examine why something I know is good and want to do is so hard to actually make happen. When I have a better understanding of what “present me” is thinking in the moment when I make the choice that “future me” is going to be mad about later (sleep in, eat a second bowl of ice cream, choose Netflix over reading, etc.), it helps me plan for my own lack of self-discipline.
When it comes to my latte habit, there is so much more to it than just the fact that they are delicious. It’s about what it represents. There’s something about getting a latte out that reminds me of the old days, of less responsibility and more “me” time. It makes me feel like a grownup. That cup represents a tiny bubble of me space that I can hold onto even when I’m surrounded by chaos and small people. It’s also my reward when things go wrong. Tantrums happen on our way out of the Children’s Museum? I deserve this!
My Habit Formation Plan:
After I examined some of my emotional attachments to my bad habit, I made a habit formation plan with those weaknesses in mind.
1. Describe Habit
I like to make my new habits positive rather than negative because it’s easier for me to focus on what I am doing rather than what I shouldn’t be doing. Which is why my habit is “Coffee/tea in” vs. “Don’t buy coffee out.”
2. Pick a tracking symbol
I was listening to a talk by Simon Sinek the other day, and he mentioned that humans are visual: we draw more satisfaction from physically using a pen to check off a task on our to-do list vs. just doing to job and never tracking it.
Creating a symbol and using it to track your progress can be a fun way to add an extra visual component to your accountability system. For this, a simple mug drawing works great.
Determine how often you want your habit to happen. The more often you do it, the faster it becomes a habit. I want getting coffee out to become a fun treat vs. a habit, so I’m choosing to set my new habit to make coffee/tea at home 5x a week.
4. Instead of…
This is where you figure out what action you want to replace. For me it’s “Spending too much money on expensive, sugary lattes.”
5. Identify Cue
It’s best if your cue can be pretty stable and happen every day. For example, a good cue for stretching would be:
Cue: Every morning after I brush my teeth (piggybacking habits is a strong strategy).
For my coffee-at-home habit, since I’m trying to replace a bad habit, I need to look at what my current cue is for buying coffee out, keep it the same, then work to change the habit that follows. My current cue to buy coffee out is ….
Cue: I get in my car to go somewhere
So my new cue is “right before we leave the house.”
6. Describe desired habit
This one is pretty self-explanatory: Make coffee or tea at home.
7. Because …
Identify a compelling “why?” and write it down so that, when things get hard, you can remind yourself of the reason you’re forming this habit in the first place.
Mine is: “I want to take care of the gifts I’ve been given, (in this case money) and this current pattern is wasteful. I want buying coffee out to be a treat instead of an addiction.” I want to give and save the excess of cash that's been going towards feeding my latte habit.
8. Rest/mini reward
Habits are much more likely to stick if something about the habit is enjoyable: even if it’s as small as new running sneakers you like or getting to sit down and relax after you fold the laundry. I bought a new travel coffee mug to keep my coffee nice and warm, to make it more enticing to use than just one of our regular mugs that doesn’t fit right in my cup-holder.
I wrote down a few people who are going to be checking in with me to see how my habit is going. Joseph is going to ask me about it weekly, my focus group ladies are going to ask about it monthly, and my friend Sharon is going to hold me accountable quarterly- although I hope it only takes one quarter to make it stick!
Long-range Habit Tracking & Long-range rewards
Habits take longer than you may think to make them stick (which is why I think I failed at forming this habit last year). That whole 21-days thing only applies to super-simple, easy-to-form habits. The more complicated the habit, the longer it takes to form. Three months is a good amount of time to dedicate to really forming a new one. The beautiful thing is, once-formed a habit becomes a piece of cake: you can just do it on autopilot with no inner monologue required!
I like to set a long-range goal for myself along with a reward once I get there to keep me motivated. For this goal, the reward will be building a fence in our backyard when I make this habit happen 60 times. I will be using part of the money we save from not buying coffee out to go towards this goal. I use my tracking symbol to keep myself honest and track how things are going. I track my habit in my agenda, then refer back to this big tracking page and plug them in at the end of the week.
Welp, that sums it up. I’d love to hear about any habits you are trying to form this year and how it’s going! For more on habit formation click here. Lots of inspiration for this post came from Gretchen Rubin's book, Better than Before and Charles Duhigg's, The Power of Habit.
Rhythm integration plan example up next!