Untangling Bad Habits

I was thinking about the book Tiny Habits and using it to help me with a bad habit of mine. Night snacking.

I don’t always snack at night. But I snack enough that I should try to curb it. My snack of choice is tortilla chips and salsa.

BJ Fogg recommends that you look closely at the behaviour you want to change. See if there are other habits associated with it. He calls this a “Swarm of Behaviours”.

My snacking of tortillas and salsa happens at night. It happens when I’m watching TV. When I’m watching TV by myself. It’s often after I’ve been watching TV for a couple of hours.

He calls this a “Tangle of Behaviours”. It isn’t one bad habit, but a bunch of other habits that combine together.

And instead of trying to fix the big one right away, see if you can work on some of the smaller ones.

So, I could look at reducing the amount of time I watch TV. I could set a timer to turn off the TV after two hours? Or maybe I can only watch two episodes of a Netflix show.

And if the habit of watching too much TV is gone, the prompt to snack might go away, too.

In May, I didn’t watch TV during the week. And it reduced my snacking. I still snacked on the weekends, though.

Fogg’s behaviour model is that Behaviour equals Motivation plus Ability plus Prompt . Or B = MAP. How much you want to do it. How easy it is to do. And what triggers you to do it.

But when you’re trying to stop a habit, it’s best to look at from Prompt Ability Motivation (PAM). Most of us think willpower (motivation) is the way to stop a habit. But it’s the least reliable method. Because most of us are weak. It takes too much effort to rely on our will power.

The easiest way to stop behaviour is to remove the prompt. Like not watching TV during the week. Or limiting the time that I watch it. I snack while watching TV. If I’m reading or on the computer, I don’t usually snack.

If that didn’t work, I could look at making the Ability to do it more difficult. I could remove all the tortilla chips and salsa from our house. So, if I wanted to snack on that, I would have to go out and buy some.

I could also remove all the other salty snacks that I enjoy…

I’m not there yet. I want to work on the prompts first. I mean, we sometimes have nachos for dinner. I don’t want to deprive my family, right??

I’m going to focus on my prompts for night snacking and see how it goes. Who knows? Maybe my tortilla and salsa snack tonight will be the last one for a while?

I’ll let you know…

© 2021 Peter Gruner

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