Habit Triggers


A trigger for a habit is an event that happens right before you do your add-on habit. If the trigger is already a memorable and strong part of your routine, it can serve as a good foundation to lay on other habits.

I am working on developing the habit of writing after I get home from work. The habit is writing and the trigger is getting home from work. You can think of these trigger to habit as like neural pathways: they get stronger the more them and atrophy with disuse. Every time I write a post after coming home from work, my mind becomes more accustomed to this being the automatic behavior. It becomes the behavior that my subconscious mind becomes addicted to. It is the pattern that it cannot help but fulfill. Your habits become drugs you are addicted to.

Have you ever noticed that you remember very well the first few times you are learning how to do a task, but after it becomes part of your routine it fades into the background of your life as an automatic and effortless action? This is how it feels when you reinforce the pathways between triggers and habits. At first they are weak and you can easily stop doing the add-on habit. But by reinforcing the pathway time and time again, you can hardly help yourself from doing it.

A good trigger is something in your life that is already a positive part that you want to keep. A good trigger is something you do regularly and easily. I have wrote about some of these triggers before but here is a combined list of triggers you might be able to use to add on positive habits yourself:

  • Brushing your teeth
  • Flossing
  • Getting dressed (before or after)
  • Taking a shower
  • Putting on deodorant
  • Going to work
  • Coming back from work
  • A day of the week
  • Walking through a doorway, hallway, or passageway
  • Sunrise or sunset
  • Getting in or out of your car
  • Stopped at a stoplight or in traffic
  • Before you eat
  • After you eat
  • While you wait for the microwave/oven/cooking
  • Waiting in a line
  • At a meeting
  • Before, during, or after exercise

Many of these triggers are probably already available in your life. Are you taking advantage of them to help develop positive habits in your life? How many of the triggers above produce a positive behavior for you? How many of them trigger a banal habit "look at my cellphone"? What are some other triggers you can think of that we can benefit from adding a habit onto?