Build unbreakable habits!

Hello and welcome to the newsletter that spellcheck can’t beet: it’s Taste This!, the official newsletter of TasteBetter.com!

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In this issue:

  • Welcome!
  • How to build unbreakable habits
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  • What you missed, what’s ahead
  • Thanks!

Welcome!

How awesome can this week possibly be? I’m super excited to be writing to you today, because this is the only Monday I’m going to have all week, and I’m going to make it count. I’ve got the whole week mapped out, and it’s all going to automagically happen because of today, Monday, the day most people dread, but I’ve got a master plan.

What about you? Did you wake up excited this morning? If not, I want today’s newsletter to help with tomorrow. I was going to say “let’s wake up excited together,” but I am a Family Man now. 🙂

This week we get to welcome new subscribers Suzi, Ashley, and Charlotte! If you’re new or even if you’ve been around for a while, I welcome your feedback and suggestions – you can use our contact form and it’ll get right to me.

How to build unbreakable habits

This week’s topic comes from last week’s office hours and builds on today’s posting on Taste Better, where I give tips on how to eat more fruits and vegetables.

As I mentioned during office hours, you’re leaking self discipline like a sieve. Every bit of stress, every demand you place on your body (even something as simple as remembering a seven digit number – thanks Lisa!) makes it harder and harder for you to commit to doing things that you know are good for you, but take a little bit of effort.

Is it any wonder that it’s so hard to, say, start a workout program? Sure, day one is easy, but then you get a little sore from all those muscles you’re not used to using, and suddenly lacing up those shoes gets a whole lot harder. More likely, it doesn’t get harder, but a million other fun and easy activities come up in your brain that lure you away.

The way to beat that is to make it a habit, but you need to go deeper than that – you need to make it a part of who you are. You need to make it a regular routine, but at the risk of becoming “that word guy,” I’m going to say I don’t like the word “routine.” It’s boring.

Instead, you need to start rituals.

Rituals aren’t routine; rituals are sacred. You have to complete them, or you’ll feel like something’s missing. In your brain, they quickly change from a thing you should probably do to something you absolutely have to accomplish.

Rituals can be big actions or small ones – take a look at a sporting event and you’ll probably find several athletes conducting tiny rituals that help them focus on their next action. These don’t take any time at all. On the other hand, your ritual might involve going to the gym, like we mentioned earlier, which can take a much larger chunk of time.

Some rituals I personally practice range from simple things like taking a vitamin supplement or flossing my teeth, to more elaborate rituals like crafting these newsletters and the posts on Taste Better – that’s right, they’re rituals to me, and if I didn’t set things up properly they wouldn’t get done.

For a ritual to work and become engrained into your identity, you need to do two things: make it as easy as possible to start each time and create a positive feedback cycle to keep it going.

Starting a ritualistic activity requires that it’s easy (I call that removing the friction) and that it has a trigger to get you started.

Reducing friction is simply a matter of figuring out what’s stopping you and fixing it. For example, in today’s post about eating raw fruits and vegetables, I actually describe a whole different ritual, but if you practice that one you can easily practice the ritual of snacking on raw fruits and vegetables when you’re watching TV. Going to the gym might be easier if you pre-stock your gym bag with everything you need and put it in front of the door where you can’t not see it on your way out. If you want to drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up (you’re a bit dehydrated on waking because you’ve just gone several hours without drinking,) putting a glass right next to the sink, possibly already full, makes that super easy.

Your friction reducers might even form the basis for triggers. A trigger is a reminder, possibly physical, that you need to start your ritual. For example, I take a vitamin pill at night (I explain why here.) I’m also one of those people who sometimes grinds his teeth when he sleeps, so I already had a ritual of putting in my bite plate thingy before going to bed. I put the vitamin bottle right next to the bite plate so I can’t not see it when I’m reaching for the plate, which is my cue to down a pill.

I’ve got lots of triggers installed in my life. For example, before I start to cook, I have to do any dishes that are in the sink and clean off the counter. It’s really, really hard for me to cook without doing that first, and that’s because I set up “start to cook” as a trigger for the “clean the kitchen” ritual (and yes, I tend to clean as I go, so the kitchen isn’t a mess for all of the time between meals!)

The next piece of the ritual puzzle is the positive feedback loop. This is what makes you want to do the ritual again. In many cases, the ritual provides its own feedback, like a clean kitchen or a healthy post-workout glow, but sometimes you’re trying to do something you don’t really enjoy. First of all, I’d look at that ritual and see if you can either change it so you like it or find somebody else to do it, because it’s a lot easier to do things you love to do, but these things come up – for example, maybe you’re trying to study a certain subject, and it’s really boring, and the payoff (say, a certification that’ll land you a better job) is way off in the future.

In those cases, a small (healthy!) reward for your efforts can work great. People always think of food or spending money when they think of rewards, but it can be as simple as a 10 minute YouTube break or some kind of “guilty pleasure” that you save specifically for this purpose.

Once you start looking at habits as rituals, you can use these same ideas to eliminate bad habits (rituals) from your life. What are the triggers you’ve subconsciously placed to start these less desirable rituals? Can you change them? Can you add friction to the habit so it’s less convenient to get started? Or can you introduce a brand new ritual, like the fruits instead of chips one that I suggested in today’s post?

As I said earlier, a ritual is a sacred thing, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. By picking your triggers, reducing the friction, and instilling the reward, a ritual can be a powerful tool for automating all kinds of practices in your constantly improving life.

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Just a quick sidebar – we’re simplifying the newsletter to make it easier to handle. In past weeks we’ve had a format of “big lesson, smaller lesson, site news, what’s coming up, thanks,” and this week we’re taking out the smaller lesson – it was distracting from the main idea and made the newsletter too long.

This is the section where we make big announcements about The Better Network or our lives here at Thrust Labs that are more important than what goes into the “what’s coming up this week” section, and this week, the announcement is the one you just read. 🙂

Hopefully this will make for a simpler, more engaging newsletter and let us dig deeper into the main topic!

What you missed, what’s ahead

Last week was awesome, and I’m really excited about the week to come!

As I promised, we’re moving more to practical “how to” advice on Taste Better, and last week we did that with our post on how to beat the recipe reruns. This week it’s raw week, so today was the already mentioned how to eat more raw fruits and vegetables and on Wednesday we’ll jump to the world of work and cover the single best (and maybe cheapest) addition you can add to your lunch box to ensure a steady supply of fruit at your desk.

Vegan Porn keeps being goofy, and this week is another Porncast week, which I know a lot of you look forward to – we’re getting pretty good at the every other Tuesday cycle! VP is pretty much safe for work other than the name, and it’s our place to point out silly things that happen in the world and put a bit of a vegan spin on them.

Barnivore is our vegan booze guide, and this week we’re going to make it easier for people to contact their favourite companies to find out what’s in their products.

Spawn Better covered what to do when the “anti-population” crowd judges your choice to have children and this week we’re going to talk about vegan parenting groups – how to start one, how to find one, and why it’s not necessarily a bad thing if they aren’t around.

Thanks!

These newsletters take about three hours to publish, and then another five or so to reply to all the great feedback you send in, and I love every minute of it. Thanks so much for connecting and sharing your ideas so we can all grow to meet our potential!

If you were forwarded this by a friend, please thank them for me! You can subscribe to your own copy by scrolling to the bottom of any page on Taste Better. If you’re a subscriber, consider forwarding this to a friend or five!

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The newsletter goes out every Monday afternoon, see you next week!

Jason

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