People often assume that the same approach will work for everyone, that the same habits will work for everyone, and that everyone has the same aptitude and appetite for forming habits, but from my observation, that’s not true.
I was recently listening to Sonia Simone’s excellent podcast about ‘hacks for healthy changes’ and was struck by a study she cited regarding the impact of values on people’s perceptions.
In this study, the researchers found that people who were reminded of a core value (that they had selected as being important to them) before a daily health activity reminder were more likely to view the health activity reminder in a positive manner.
Like most ‘hacks’ I read (or listen to) it sounded interesting and I ‘filed it away’ for later use, but then did nothing with it.
However, today I read an article about Bad habits and how science can help us change them and realised the author was talking about the same study.
According to the author, Sophie Scott, the study also showed that reflecting on my core values activates the ventromedial prefontal cortex – which is the part of the brain that makes me more likely to accept advice and change my behaviour.
Wow! Simply reflecting on a core value could permanently change my behaviour in a positive manner? It was obviously time to look into this idea a lot more seriously.
What do I like about this concept?
- It appears to be very easy to implement and could be either digital (a calendar notification sent just before a pre-planned exercise session) or analogue (a card tucked into a notebook that you use on a regular basis).
- It’s free – just the cost of your time to develop the value, as well as actually do the behaviour.
- It’s customisable – feel like the behaviour has been ingrained now? Well, start a new habit and apply the value affirmation method to that!
- It acknowledges that the “spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” and gives you a little ‘neural push’ at the appropriate time.
Ready, Set, Go!
Let’s take this theory for a bit of a test run shall we?
Here’s what I’m going to do. For the next 30 days I am going to reflect on a core value – both before a specific activity and also at random times during the day.
I’d like to see if this helps change my attitude towards the specific activity (doing yoga on a regular basis) as well as overall – will I end up taking more positive actions in everything as a result of reflecting on my core value?
Obviously this is not going to be a rigorous scientific study, but the 30 days are going to pass anyway, so why not give it a go?
Ready: Pick a value
So the first thing to do is to choose a core value that I will be reflecting on.
I’ve chosen as my core value Respect – for myself, for my relationships with others, and for the world we live in.
Set: Schedule reminders
Now it’s a matter of deciding how and when I’ll get the values reminder. I’m currently using Google’s new Goals feature to encourage me to do more yoga, and now I have set a notification that pops up 30 minutes before each session with my core value on it.
For the more general, random reminders I’m going to use an app like this one Randomly Remind Me. As Sonia notes (and I agree with her)
…you don’t want a post-it that you see every hour of your workday, because you will instantly go blind to it. But a calendar reminder once a day might work nicely. Or a physical thing like a card tucked into something you look at once or twice.
Go: And they’re off!
I’m starting this ‘experiment’ on 21 April 2016 (the day after this post was published).
On 20 May 2016 I’ll report back here on how it’s gone. The key indicators I’m looking for are:
- A more positive attitude in general.
- 95% of my yoga sessions for the 30 days will be completed.
- More energy to do the things I know I need to do, but don’t always want to do.
As you can see fairly loose indicators but without access to an MRI scanner (as used in the study) I’m not sure how else to measure success!
Have you tried something like this before? How did it go?