A Habit Forming Idea


It’s that time of year. If you are like most people, it’s the time when most New Year’s resolutions have totally faded into oblivion. All the new habits you planned to form have fallen by the wayside.

But wait! In a study referenced in a recent Psychology Today article, 91 percent of people who used a simple two-step process stuck with their goal long enough to form a desired habit. They used a process called the “if-then” solution.

In the January/February 2011 issue of the magazine, psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson explains how if-then planning works. Perhaps the most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. And most people who resolve to do this think, “I’ll start eating less and exercising more.” And it almost never works.

An if-then planner approaches the same resolution by determining exactly what to do in specific situations when specific triggering events occur. For example, if you desire to lose weight you might decide, “when the dessert menu arrives, then I will order a cup of coffee.” Or, “when the clock rolls around to 5:30 on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, then I will be at the fitness club on the treadmill.” You can use any form of the process “if X happens, then I will do Y” that supports your desired goal.

This may sound too simple to work. However, a 91 percent success rate should encourage you to give it a try. And if this idea works for weight loss goals, it will work for any goal. According to the article, there is compelling evidence that this process works for most any goal you can think of, “from using public transportation more frequently to avoiding stereotypical and prejudicial thoughts.”

Here’s a simple business application. In some of my classes related to selling, I teach salespeople to engage a prospect in a conversation, remain very patient, and discover at least three hooks (things important to the prospect) before interrupting or trying to move forward in the sales process.

Often when a salesperson hears the prospect say anything remotely related to the product or service being offered, they immediately stop listening and start talking. An if-then planner desiring to form the habit of being a better listener might decide, “if I am engaged in an interaction with a prospect, then I will focus on asking questions and listening until I discover at least three hooks.”

Here’s the bottom line. Look for triggering events related to all your important business goals. Then, reduce these goals to specific if-then statements to help you get the job done!

Chris Crouch, author of “Getting More Done” and other books on improving productivity, can be contacted at cc@dmetraining.com.