The day I realised my time was running out, my life changed.

Building habits with the 5 Step Habit Loop

The day I realised my time was running out, my life changed.

Building Habits

Building habits is tricky. If you want to be successful in building your next habit, first you have to understand how habits work. Next you have to make your new habit small enough and answer 5 simple questions. It’s that easy. Get that right and you turn the 88% habit failure rate upside down and can learn ANYTHING you want!

But today I am not going to talk about management, NWOW or leadership habits. I am going to show how I used the 5 step habit loop to learn how to skateboard (at the age of 42).

My Midlife Crisis

I kind of had a midlife crisis about three years ago. It all started during the weeks leading up to my 4oth birthday. All of a sudden I caught myself thinking a lot about time. Maybe because I realised it was running out. When you are 20 years old and double your age, you are 40. And that’s cool. Now I am 43. The double of that is 86 and that sounds so old! The first 43 years of my life passed in a glimpse, so I had to find a way to gain more time and start scratching things off my bucket list!

A little over a year ago I added skateboarding to that list after a friend of mine posted the video below on facebook. For some odd reason I saw myself cruising down a street like that. Before I knew it, and after watching the video over 50 times, I jumped in the car and was on my way to buy my first skateboard.

How do you build a new habit?

But how do you learn to skate? By turning it into a habit! At CUTE we use a 5 step habit loop to help managers build new habits and I decided to use the same loop to help me learn how to skate.

Basically the 5 step habit loop works like this. You need to define and think about 5 things: your motor, trigger, routine, reinforcement and environment.

Motor (why?)

Why do you really want to do something? Normally when you answer the why, you start with I want …

I want to skateboard daily, because it makes me feel alive and young(er). Another reason I want to skateboard is actually surfing. Starting your day catching waves whilst the sun is rising is magical. But unfortunately you can’t surf when there aren’t any waves. Skating solves that problem. No surf … SKATE! Basically now I can start almost every day of the year with one of my passions. An extra “skating bonus” is that it’s actually also really good to help improve my surfing, because the movements are similar.

Trigger (When?)

One of the main reasons new habit attempts fail is that people don’t specify exactly when they are going to do their new habit. So this is really important. Try to choose an already existing habit as a trigger for your new habit! The last couple of years I always wake up in between 5am and 6am to go surfing. So I decided to plan my new skate habit first thing after breakfast.

Try to pinpoint when you are going to do your new habit. After I…

After I wake up at 5:58 and have breakfast (I will go outside and do at least one trick I am working on).

Routine (What? How?)

Make sure your routine is very precise and make it so small and easy you have no reason not to do it. Split your new habit up into steps. I will … Step 1. I will … Step 2.

  • After┬ábreakfast I will go outside and put on my protective gear. (step 1)
  • I will skate down the street a couple of times. (step 2)
  • I will try to do at least one trick I am working on. (step 3)
  • Finally if I feel up for more I will go to the skatepark in case I don’t go surfing. (step 4)
Reinforcement (How+?)

How can you make your new habit something positive? If your new habit doesn’t feel rewarding your brain will trick you in finding a reason not to do it. The “how+” question normally starts with I feel…

  • I feel great because I started my day with something I love doing and saw the sunrise.
  • Every morning I try to meet up with one or two skate buddies (Master Vasco and Nico) because I feel that it helps to have somebody around to share the fun and learn something from.
  • I also “confess” that I feel good when I post a picture or video on instagram to show my friends the improvement and get back some motivating feedback.
Environment (What if?)

And last but not least think about the environment. How can you tweak your environment so it’s easier for you to do your new habit. Also try to think about obstacles (“what ifs”) that you might encounter and how you can face them.

  • If it rains I will go to an indoor skatepark or practice some skate tricks inside (e.g. garage).
  • I will always have a skateboard in the car and another in the office (at home).
  • I will have one skate class a week, because I feel it will help me learn the basics and motivate me to keep on going. (special thanks to Bernard and Moche Skate Academy)
  • When I am injured (unfortunately you will hurt yourself), I will watch some skate videos to keep motivation levels high.
  • If I travel abroad for work or vacation, then my skateboard comes along.
  • If I pressed the snooze button in the morning and didn’t get up in time, then I will do some ollies during a break at work.
  • When I am in pain, then I have to accept the pain and understand it’s part of skating.

One Year Later

Was I successful in building my new habit? Well in average I woke up 90 minutes earlier every day during the last year. I gained exactly 32850 minutes to learn something new and enjoy life. The kids at the skatepark might still think I am a kook, but I am happy to see the results of those 547 hours of falling and getting back up. And the best part of this all? I learned all this during the hours I used to be asleep!

Building Habits Conclusion

The most important advice I can give you all is to start skateboarding. Nah I am kidding. ­čśë I just used my skateboarding habit as an example because you can visually see the improvement. Imagine the same happens to your leadership skills or the way you manage your people? Remember to make your habit small enough! It’s easier to do an ollie a day than go skating 2 hours each day. Once you start building your habit, you can adjust your loop. The most important thing is to get started and close the knowing doing gap.

If you have a sedentary lifestyle and for some reason decide that you want to run a marathon,┬ádon’t start by saying you’re going to run every day. Start by saying I am going to put my running shoes on every day and if I feel like it afterwards, then I will go running. You will see that you have days that you don’t feel like running, but once you have put on your shoes, you might catch yourself thinking: well, why not go for a little run.

Good luck with those new habits!

Haroun Cherif (Online Manager CUTESolutions)

Find out more about building habits!

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