As we mentioned in Part 1, triggers are some of the magic of Damn Early Days, as not only is it at a time of day when you’re fresh and have a clear mind, but you also have nothing in front of you except for the things you really want to focus on.
That's a powerful combo I think we all need more of.
But for the benefit of the rest of our lives, we want to look beyond just the early wake up. Understanding all the triggers out there and how they form will give you a much better sense of awareness as to the behavioural programming that guides most of your life. It will also greatly increase your ability to build habits you care about, including getting to bed on time.
CHOOSING A TRIGGER
The best part about triggers is that you don’t need to spend a bunch of effort creating new ones. The triggers already exist in your life. You just need to identify which ones are already ingrained into your daily routine and then tag a new habitual behaviour onto it.
Some examples of triggers you might already have:
- Waking up
- Brushing your teeth
- Eating breakfast
- Reading your morning paper/checking email in the morning
- Commuting to work
- Coming into the office in the morning
- Eating lunch
- Commuting home
- Arriving home
- A morning meeting
- Taking the kids to school
There are many other examples, which well explore below, and the trick is to find ones that happen regularly and that you know are good for you.
The 5 Kinds of Triggers
Triggers, in essence, can be anything that causes a behaviour. So any event or stimulus from the environment – or even the thoughts, feelings, and emotions from our brain – can be used.
When you put it that way, you'll realize there is a dizzying array of ways that behaviour can be initiated. This is why it’s sometimes difficult to identify the trigger that causes a particular behaviour.
But don't worry, they are easily broken down into five different categories. If you understand each of them, then you can select the right one for the particular habit that you are working on.
TRIGGER 1: TIME
As one of the most common triggers, time is used to regulate our daily schedules. We wake up at a certain time, eat around midday, and go to bed at regular times. It is one of the most easily recognizable triggers and one of the easiest to build habits on.
TRIGGER 2: ENVIRONMENT / LOCATION
Being in a certain area or environment can cause certain behaviours to kick in.
When you enter a room, you may automatically turn on the light. When you leave a room you might shut the door. If you have ever walked into your kitchen, seen some snacks on the counter and just eaten them because they were in front of you, then you already understand the power of Environment / Location on our behaviour.
Environment / Location is one the most powerful drivers of automatic habits and also the least recognized. In many cases, our habits and behaviours are simply a response to the environment that surrounds us. Go to a bar and try not to drink. It’s a lot harder than it should be.
The flip side to this is that if you change your environment, you’ll likely be able to create new habits quite easily – so long as the new environment is conducive to the habit you’re trying to form.
TRIGGER 3: EVENTs
Many habits are a response to something else that happens in your life. Your phone vibrates, so you pick it up and check the latest notification. Facebook drops a sound in your browser so you automatically jump to check it. The little red bubble pops-up in the corner of the app icon, so we open it up to see what it could be. These are examples of habits that are triggered by a preceding event.
When it comes to leveraging triggers to build habits, events can be one of the most useful and easiest to understand. When you get the hang of it, you can start stacking triggers and habits on top of each other to create a powerful cascade of things that all move you forward. This is some of the science behind evening and morning routines.
TRIGGER 4: EMOTIONAL STATE
Emotional state is a powerful trigger, but one that generally precedes negative habits, rather than positive. You know, reaching for those cookies when you’re feeling a little down or mindlessly scrolling through Instagram when you’re feeling anxious. Or, maybe you default to online shopping when you’re feeling bored?
These different emotional states will trigger different habits in you.
Unfortunately, although emotions are very common triggers for our behaviour, I find that they are harder to control and utilize for building good habits. Mostly, I think this is because if you want an emotion to trigger a positive habit, then you often need to be consciously aware of the emotion as you are experiencing it. In other words, you have to be emotional and aware at the same time … and that can be hard to do. Paying attention is a powerful, but difficult, way to build better habits.
All that said, noticing emotional triggers is important as it's how most online company (Facebook, Instagram, Etsy, Amazon, etc.) have created the user behaviour to come back to their platform again and again. Noticing how you're feeling and linking that to why you end up online can be a powerful eye opener for you to be aware of.
TRIGGER 5: THE PEOPLE YOU SURROUND YOURSELF WITH
It should be no surprise that the people you surround yourself with play a huge role in the development of who you become. As Jim Rohn says, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” So last, but not least, the people you surround yourself with can act as triggers for certain behaviours.
You may not care to drink tonight, but when you're with your friends you may feel more inclined to grab a glass of wine. Or maybe, the only reason you're doing Damn Early Days is because you're doing it with a friend.
Either way, the people you hang with can be a major trigger for you and used properly, your social circle can be one of the most powerful habit builders you have.
CHOOSING A TRIGGER
Now that you understand triggers, the key is to actually use them to make our lives easier.
No matter what trigger you choose, there is one important thing to know – the key is to choosing a successful trigger is to pick one that is specific and immediately actionable.
Every single day, commit to doing your new habit right after the trigger. Immediately — with no delay. You’ll need to do this very consciously at first. You might want to post a reminder for yourself where you won’t forget it.
When you do the trigger, do the habit without fail.
As always, self-experimentation is the only real answer. Play around with these five habit triggers and see what works for you.
Hell, combined triggers with Mel Robbins 5 Second Rule, and you can really quickly become a powerhouse.
That's it for this morning.
And because you made it through that, I got some goods for you this morning.