When I was a young girl, I craved music. Craved it. I would watch someone on TV or in person playing the piano and singing and everything in me wanted to do that. I would go and kneel down at the couch in the living room and pray that I would be able to play the piano, that it would just magically happen to/for me. Then I’d go sit at the piano and – whomp whomp – garbled gibberish. Just like the rest of the mortals, I would need to take lessons and practice in order to become a proficient pianist.
Of course, I didn’t crave the 5:00 pm half hour daily practicing. I didn’t crave the lessons. Some days, when outside was calling or I was missing a favourite show, it was hard to maintain the practice habit. But the pull of the reward (and my mother’s attentive ear and eye) kept me going with that habit. And, because I just happened to have a natural ear for music, the reward of being able to play songs came quickly and easily.
Setting up a Craving
In James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, he says the path to building and maintaining a habit that serves you is Cue à Craving à Response à Reward. Last week, I wrote about how to set up effective cues that make the new behaviour obvious for us, because it’s right in front of our faces.
But the thing is that, if it’s something I hate doing, I can – and probably will – just find a workaround. Let’s say I hate doing my taxes (to be clear, I absolutely do not do my own taxes! But I still have stuff I need to gather and get to my accountant in order for the taxes to be done). And let’s say I procrastinate on this, which is something we are prone to do with things we don’t enjoy. I can pile all the stuff on my desk in front of, or even on top of, my laptop. I can put a big sticky note on the monitor that reminds me to do it. I can put it in my calendar. I’ve set the cues. Made it obvious. But if the reward is not there for me, it hasn’t been made attractive, so I don’t have a craving.
What I need to incentivize me is a reward, something that makes it satisfying. Essentially, I need to de ide on step 4 of the Atomic Habits habit loop so that I can cultivate step two, creating a craving and making it attractive.
To Do Lists
I love lists. I need lists. I feel much, much better when I know what I have to accomplish in a given week or day. For me, there is a reward in being able to stroke something off of my list. Because I find that so satisfying, I have developed the habit of making lists. So, you, see, the list becomes the cue, and the craving that gets me to take action (the response) is wanting to be able to cross off a particular item (the reward).
That might be a silly example, but I want you to see that the reward doesn’t have to be something spectacular like a Disney trip. As long as it’s satisfying, that gets the job done, right? Ultimately, I am more productive (which feels good) and I fulfill part of my identity (I am a person who gets things done) because I have developed this habit using this four-step process. Cool sauce.
Make Your Own List
It might be a good idea to sit down and write a list of the new habits you want in your life. Things that serve you and get you where you want to go. Create a little table for yourself that looks like this:
When thinking about how to cultivate a craving, you will want to think about what reward you’ll offer yourself. That will go a long way toward cementing that new habit.
Today, I Play
I took 6 years of lessons and have spent countless hours practicing and playing the piano. Today, the good habits I developed around practicing make it easy to pick up a new song and master it quickly. That’s one of the biggest benefits of great habits – the proficiency that comes with experience reduces the time required to master new levels.
What new habits do you want to develop? What cravings can you set up for yourself to make that habit attractive?
I always love hearing from you, so shoot me your comments.
And, as always, Stay on Point!