How to Create Sticky Habits: Make it Satisfying

The 4th and final law of behavior change is focused on how to make completing your habits enjoyable. Even if you've managed to make it obvious where and how to start your habits, you've convinced yourself that completing a habit is attractive, and you've made actually doing that habit as easy as possible, there's still one more step to completing the habit loop. While the first three laws focus on getting you to actually do the habit, the final law is mainly concerned with how you feel once you've successfully completed that rep or as Eminem would phrase it,


How do you keep up the pace

And the hunger pangs once you've won the race?


The answer is to make it satisfying. Actually finishing the habit itself is only 3/4ths of the habit loop, the final step is about making it repeatable to lock in your gains. Let's face it, everyone dreads going to the gym at some point or another. Even if you've managed to automate the process of going in your head through effective habit crafting, it's hard to argue with the idea that our default setting is probably set to laziness rather than activity. Put in another way, humans are more naturally inclined to crave short term or instant gratification over long term gratification.


It's why we hit the snooze button, or eat that extra helping of ice cream, or scroll on social media. Those things provide positive feedback and serotonin immediately, whereas the benefits we get from doing the opposite take time to manifest. We view everything through the lens of time, and it's generally acknowledged that we want things to take less of it. Jeff Bezos became the richest person in the world by just delivering stuff faster than anyone else.


We prefer rewards to arrive immediately even when we know that those who can delay gratification are generally more successful, healthier, and happier. Just about everyone knows the study that pit kids against a plate of marshmallows and asked them to refrain from eating them for the promise of a larger pile of snacks in 15 minutes. Those that were able to resist the temptation had markedly better life outcomes decades on, for the sheer fact that they were better at waiting for rewards.


When we work out we have to wait months before seeing noticeable results. When we work on a creative project, it often takes months or years of just grinding out content before something we create gets noticed in a huge way. The difference between those that quit and those that don't is that the latter manage to keep themselves going despite a lack of visible results in the short term. Winston Churchill described success simply as, "going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” How do you prevent yourself from losing enthusiasm? Make it satisfying.


Find ways to reward yourself for your efforts, if you're unemployed and you have a goal to find a new job, then you need to develop a habit of filling out applications and tracking down interviews. For every application you fill out and every interview you crush, you need to find a way to reward yourself for your efforts, so that you'll remember not the work, but rather the immediate benefits of completing that work. This could be anything from ordering yourself a coffee at Starbucks to giving yourself 30 minutes to online shop for every hour you spend job hunting. The trick is to reward yourself as quickly as possible so that you're excited to keep up the habit you're trying to start.


Something important to note about rewards is that it's just as important that they align with your long term goals as your daily habits. If you're trying to become more healthy, then rewarding yourself for tracking your meals or going for a run with a trip to McDonald's isn't going to help you move towards your goals. If you're trying to become financially independent or a better saver, then rewarding yourself with a shopping spree isn't going to work either. Ask yourself the type of person you're trying to be and align your rewards accordingly.





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