Habits are hard.  I might as well make a habit of starting habits because at least that would be one I’d keep.

For so many reasons, I struggle to start new habits.  I can have the best intentions, a solid plan, and all the motivation in the world.  But, then it only takes one thing to derail the habit I am trying to form.

When reading Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini, I read right over an amazing (yet simple) approach to starting habits.  It wasn’t until I went back to my notes that I recognized the power of what I had glanced over. (I like complex solutions when simple ones are often far superior)

He calls it the “If or When” and “Then” principle.  Our lives are often governed by automatic decisions that we have continually made over a long period of time.  When I am getting ready to go to bed, then I brush my teeth. If I’m stuck while writing, then I go get a snack. Both going to bed and being stuck while writing trigger an action without me consciously thinking about it.  I like that I brush my teeth before bed, but I am not crazy about the fact that I get a snack every time I am stuck writing.

By using “if or when” and “then”, I can reroute my response to a specific trigger.  For habits that have stuck in the past, I have unintentionally used this formula. To meet my goal of keeping my apartment clean, I told myself when the garbage gets full, then I will take it out immediately.


As of two weeks ago I added:

When I get stuck writing, then I will have a glass of water (I’m hyperhydrated right now).

When I leave a room, then I will turn off the light (Dad, that one is for you).

If I wake up less than fifteen minutes before my alarm, then I will get up.


Surprisingly simple, but I have stuck to them all with very little effort.  I am loving it because it removes decisions from my life making them automatic.  When I leave a room, I’m now triggered to turn off the light simply because I made it a point ahead of time.

It has only been two weeks, but so far I am seeing the effectiveness.  I’m looking forward to seeing if it works long-term.

If/When and Then?

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