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In the Whirled: How to break bad habits

Published: Wednesday, May 21 2014 10:04 p.m. MDT

Then I typed up the morning and bedtime routines for each child and posted them on their doors. On the kitchen counter I set a clicker, the kind that tracks numbers on a scrolling window.

For family home evening, I unveiled the plan. The excitement was instantaneous. I’ve never seen my kids get ready for bed so quickly. For the first several days, they raced to the kitchen to ratchet up the clicks, and cheered when they reached the first two levels.

Then something interesting happened. They started forgetting about the poster. I had to start reminding them to record their clicks. But the habit of getting up with an alarm, making their beds, practicing piano and emptying trash cans remained. Even though the reward started to wane, the routine was in place.

Making lasting change

One thing I’ve learned as a parent is to keep the target moving. One system doesn’t work forever. However, I was encouraged to see that with proper motivation, our family didn’t just change our habits; we did a complete 180 turnaround.

That is the point Duhigg makes in his book. With effort and careful calculation, we can change our habits. Duhigg said the simple act of recording what we eat, how much we spend and how much exercise we get each day makes a huge difference. Pinpointing the habit loop — cue, routine, reward — can help us identify how to alter a bad habit into a good one.

Not only that, but entire companies can make changes that create new and better habits. I believe this has enormous implications for our families, church congregations and workplaces. Good habits aren’t something that just happen; they take planning and brainpower.

I saw the result in my own family. I see it every day as my kids, without being reminded, spring out of bed, get dressed, make their beds and start plinking away on the piano. We’ve had a culture shift around here.

That’s a habit I hope will stick.

Tiffany Gee Lewis lives in St. Paul, Minn., and is the mother of four boys. She blogs at thetiffanywindow.wordpress.com. Her email is tiffanyelewis@gmail.com

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