Last year I wrote this about praise (see below divider for update):
No habit is established smoothly, perfectly and with total compliance. We don't go from one habit to the opposite habit without a few detours <- cold fact.
But if we've been rewarding ourselves mentally when we actually do the thing we're trying to turn into a habit, we have a little mental flag in the sand. (Or the circuitry.) There's a bright spot up ahead that we can keep our eye on as we struggle back. And the quicker we find our way back, the oftener we'll do it.
And the oftener we do it, the easier the path becomes.
Some people would even say that staying on the path is second-best. That the whole point is getting back on after you've wandered off. That that's where everything happens.
So again: Praise. Rewards. Plant the flag, and notice that satisfying neural ka-thunk! - the sound of permanent cognitive change - when you get back on with your habit.
Now then. You may know that I actively dislike tools, try not to give homework, and am concerned above all with simplicity. Minimum effective actions.
But I do really, really like this little thing I've been doing lately, which I'm thinking of as a Praisefest*.
Here's how it's done:
Me: I really have to praise you for responding to that phone emergency this morning. You totally handled that sh*t AND you still got a workout in!
Me, responding: Thank you, it's true! I TOTALLY handled that sh*t.
Me: I also want to praise you for pushing your workout forward. Why, I believe you had 110 lbs on the barbell today!
Me, responding: Thank you, it's true! I kicked @** today!
Etc. If I'm in the car, I will do this out loud. And I can go on for a LONG TIME.
If this seems like fun to you, do it! If it seems like a chore, don't do it. If it seems really stupid, you probably ought to give it a try.
Of course, let me know what happens.
*It's a mashup of a few different tools from Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts, notably the Spring Clean.