Done smartly, telling people about the new habit you’re working on can be great motivation to keep going. In my post on Making Exercise a Habit I talked about the reinforcement technique of bragging intelligently, and that technique can be used to reinforce a great number of habits.
First, What Not to Do
There’s an important distinction to be made though. If you’re trying to change a habit, you likely have some sort of long-term goal in mind that you’re working towards. Maybe it’s to lose 50 pounds, or wake up every day at 6:00am, or stop smoking, but whatever it is it’s something you’ve not yet achieved that you’re working for.
Whatever you do, do not tell people about this goal.
There’s no quicker way to shoot yourself in the foot than to go around saying “I’m going to lose 50 pounds! I’m going to lose 50 pounds!” posting it on your Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc.
The reason this is problematic is something called “Substitution” where once you tell someone about your big goal, you receive some of the psychological satisfaction and “congratulations” feeling you would get from actually achieving it. Since you already got part of the reward from talking about the goal, without actually achieving it, you have less of a psychological drive to actually accomplish it.
So now that you know not to tell people what you’re going to do, you need to find ways to tell people what you have done. Telling people what you’ve accomplished is great–you’re getting encouragement and support for things you have accomplished, instead of for things you’re going to accomplish. Here are some of the best ways to do that.
Find a Partner
Having someone to call and check on you when you try to wake up at 6, or someone to meet you at the gym, or someone to eat healthy with can really help. Odds are that many of your lifestyle habits are influenced by your friends, and if you’re trying to change a major one, then you’re going to be cutting off part of your social life as well. Having someone to make the change with will help a lot; not only do you support each others’ successes, but you have someone to keep you company through these changes. For me, this is the only person I share my long-term habit goals with.
Find a Community
There are a vast number of communities out there for any new habit you’re trying to start. Reddit alone probably has a dozen different variations of groups that you can connect with for whatever you’re trying to accomplish. Sharing your successes there can be incredibly motivating as they’re broadcast to hundreds of other people who will encourage and support you. Obviously that’s only one example though–there are entire websites, apps, even physical locations dedicated to creating communities to provide encouragement to people trying to change something. Find one! Especially if you’re a more extroverted person.
Track your Habit
Not exactly a method of telling people, but in many ways it’s a method of bragging to yourself. If you have a way of tracking your progress on a habit, it’s really encouraging to be able to look back at how successful you’ve been. It also provides legitimacy when you’re telling others about how far you’ve come. “I’ve not missed a workout for a year” has a lot more weight than “I just started working out.” One of the great things about many of the digital communities is that they have tracking methods built in, or are created around tracking utilities. Two in one!