How Habit-Stacking Can Level You Up

“We are what we repeatedly do.” — Will Durant

If you've spent any time around REV5 Fitness in the past year, then you've heard us talk about the importance of habits. Habits are a powerful way to create positive change in your life. Ultimately, the benefit of implementing proper habits is being in control of your long term health.

Last week, in our "Helpful Tips" series on IGTV, I posted a quick blurb about a concept Gabe Yanez of NCFIT mentioned in one of our Professional Development calls. That concept is called Habit-Stacking. If you missed the blurb, start by watching it really quickly HERE

Habit-Stacking means to attach a new habit onto an existing healthy habit to make it stick. If you were on a pursuit to add more positive habits into your life and treated each as an individual action, then you’d have to create a reminder and track each behavior. This can quickly become overwhelming and undercut the implementation of the new habit. But, if done correctly, Habit-Stacking is the fastest way to build a new, sustainable, positive habit.

Here are a few tips to keep you on the right path while incorporating Habit-Stacking into your daily routine:

  1. Seek small wins. Win small. Then win small again. Then, eventually, start winning bigger. It's crucial to your success that you not try to take on a new habit that is too big too quickly. If you want to add meditation or journaling into your routine, start with 3 minutes a day. One, you'll be surprised how hard it is to dedicate even 3 minutes to full focus. Two, providing the mind the emotional momentum of successful accomplishment of the new habit makes it easier to repeat it in the future.

  2. Couple with low effort. Even if the new habit is small, it likely will require some effort to master. Therefore, couple it with a habit that is already auto-pilot for you. This helps you with the reminder to consistently practice it, but it doesn't demand that you dilute your effort in implementing it. Recognizing your gratitude for one area of your life each morning pairs well with brushing your teeth. You've been brushing your teeth since you were a child. It takes almost zero mental energy to do, and that energy can go into practicing gratitude for your amazing REV5 Coaches (for example, of course).

  3. Leverage triggers. The word trigger, itself, can be...well...triggering. This is a topic about which I am very passionate. However, when it comes to building habits, triggers can be the best leverage you've got. Here's an example of a negative trigger: There's mention of another Shelter-In-Place Order. Your anxiety starts to rev up. So, you sit down to binge eat candy canes and aimlessly scroll through social media. The negative component didn't exist because the Order triggered your anxiety, but rather because of the way you played out the emotional response to the trigger. See, there are 2 types of triggers, external and internal. And you can use both to effectively Habit-Stack. The above example is an internal trigger; you felt an emotion and needed to engage in some behavior in reponse. This trigger can also be the perfect reminder to practice Habit-Stacking. Let's say your new habit is increased mindfulness and you've coupled it with walking (an automatic behavior for most). When the internal trigger of your anxiety sets in, use that as the cue to throw in some headphones and a meditation app, go for a stroll, and practice mindfullness. On the other end is an external trigger. This is basically some form of an alarm. It serves like an internal trigger to remind you to practice your stacked habits. Let's say you're watching a football game. Every commercial break, you'll go to the restroom or grab some water. When you return, you'll perform 10 reps of Push-Ups, Air Squats, Sit-Ups, whatever. The external trigger reminds you to pee and knock out a small number of bodyweight movements.

  4. Be consistent. Your habit is appropriately sized and paired. You have triggers in place to remind you. Now you must be consistent. Research differs on the exact number, but it's pretty commonly assumed that a behavior must be repeated a MINIMUM of 21 times to CREATE a habit, much less master it. Regardless of the number, a behavior cannot become a habit without steady repitition. Through consistent repetition, your brain takes the manual behavior and turns it into muscle memory. This, then, sets you up to grow the size of the habit or to consider introducing a new positive habit. Stacking on stacking.

  5. Seek accountability. Finally, invite others into the mastery of your new postive habit. In my own example, the cup of water coupled with the coffee maker was my launching point. As I mastered that habit, I set myself a goal of half my bodyweight in water each day. The way I keep myself accountable is by talking with Ashley or my family about it. Sometimes, it's me celebrating success by championing hitting my goal. Other times, it's me saying aloud that I'm short of the goal. For example, at the dinner table, I'll turn it into a math problem for the kids. "I've had 64oz of water today. My goal is 100oz. How many more 16oz glasses do I need?" Another really great resource is social media. Andy Frisella created a personal growth program called "75 Hard." In the program, he requires you to make a public post each day about your journey. It's not about the post, it's about the discipline. Then, people will also start to come alongside you in your growth. Some won't care and can scroll on; the people who do care will congratulate you, check in on you, and maybe even get inspired by you! This is also a great reason to have a professional Coach in your corner.

Obviously, Habit-Stacking has the potential to be poorly implemented and have a negative impact on your pursuit. If the habit it too large, complex, or time-consuming, then it can lead to inconsistency or actual failure. If I go from never reading during my day to committing to an entire published Philosophical dissertation a night, then I'll probably fizzle out. If I try to couple an attainable habit that needs a decent amount of my energy with another habit that is already demanding a decent amount of my energy, I'll likely get overwhelmed. If I inappropriately couple habits together, I can get distracted (or even hurt). We don't need you adding in dedicated reading time while you're driving to work; we don't need our Coaches soaking up a new podcast while they're leading you through heavy Clean & Jerks. So, be cognizant of these potential pitfalls and stick to the tips for success outlined above.

This little life hack should be pretty self-explanatory. Dedicate some time and map out a couple of habits you'd like to add to your daily routine. Then use the outline we've provided and create your own, customized roadmap toward success. You've got this!

And if you think you need some help mapping that out, we're here for you. All it takes is 20 minutes of your time with no effort and no money required. Book that free No Sweat Intro here with either Coach Ashley or Coach Derrick to get you started on your path toward successing taking control of your long term health.