Habits are powerful.
A life filled with healthy habits is a successful life.
But forming new habits is hard, and breaking bad habits is harder.
This is why there are so many best-selling books on the topic.
While some people can read a book, implement the advice, and change their lives, most people need something more. This is where coaching comes in.
Habit Coaching: Why It’s Necessary
Unfortunately, most advice presented in self help and popular science books is too general to be useful.
The fact of the matter is that each of us is unique. We all have unique:
- Social lives
- Living situations
- Family situations
A successful habit formation approach needs to take all of these things into consideration. What will work for a person with a particular living situation and set of likes and dislikes will not work for someone else who differs substantively in these areas.
For example, let’s say that someone is looking to lose weight by starting a running habit. However, they’re 5’7, 260 pounds, live in a small apartment on the East Coast, and have little free time in between their demanding job and their parental responsibilities. For this person, running is probably not the best habit choice for their goal. Running takes time, is hard to do in the winter (unless you go to a gym), and is not particularly pleasant on the joints (especially for someone at that weight). The cards are stacked against this person.
It doesn’t matter if this person uses every motivation enhancing trick in the book, they’ll have a hard time sticking to this behavior. Even if they use the Tiny Habits approach and start with a miniaturized version of this behavior, it will be unlikely to stick.
This person needs to choose a different habit that matches their time-constrained life, living situation (small apartment, East Coast), current weight, talents, skills, and likes/dislikes. In this case, something like a bodyweight calisthenics program, kettlebell swings, the X3 Bar, or at-home yoga would be a better fit. Any of these options would prevent them from experiencing the discomfort of running, would better fit their time constrained schedule (since they can be done at home), and could be done quickly in between other at-home responsibilities year round. However, determining the absolute best habit would take a decent amount of analysis.
What is Habit Coaching?
A habit coach is someone who understands the scientific research behind habit formation and has experience using that research to drive behavior change in the real world.
In general, professors and academic researchers are quite bad at translating lab research into real world contexts. This is why habit coaching needs to be a distinct field.
Habit coaches do the following for their clients:
- Behavioral Auditing
- Situational Analyses
- Behavior Matching
- Progress Tracking and Habit Iteration
The most important thing habit coaches do is help their clients figure out which habit they should form in the first place. This is called Behavior Matching. This goal of this process is to help the client pick a behavior that:
- Is Effective at accomplishing the client’s goal.
- Is Easy for the client.
- Is Enjoyable for the client.
- Is Exciting for the client.
These 4 elements are called The 4 Es. If a behavior scores highly across the 4 Es, a client is more than likely to stick with it and form a strong habit. If a behavior is not very effective, easy, enjoyable, or exciting, no number of habit hacks or self help tricks will get it to stick.
What Can Habit Coaches Help With?
Habit coaches can help clients with:
- Long term behavior change
- Building new daily habits (or weekly, monthly habits)
- Building new health habits
- Building new productivity habits
- Breaking old, counterproductive habits
- Building a better overall lifestyle
New Habits and Old Habits
Building a new habit requires a different approach than breaking an old, bad habit.
However, if you’re looking to break an old habit it’s generally a good idea to also build a new, healthy habit at the same time. Nature abhors a vacuum, and when a habit is broken a new one will often form in its place. If we aren’t deliberate about creating a new one, it’s probable that another counterproductive habit will form to fill the void.
Reading about habit formation is usually not enough. Habit change often requires working with a committed and supportive coach. Habit coaches are most helpful when they help their clients choose the right habit for a given goal. This is called Behavior Matching, and is the main determinant of habit success.
If you’re looking for a fresh start, or just have the desire to optimize your routine, habit coaching is a good option. You can think of a habit coach as a co-author. They’re there to help you make better decisions and craft the optimal set of daily actions for your goals. After a few months of practice with an experienced coach, it’s likely that you’ll have the experience and self confidence to be able to go off on your own and sustainably develop your own habit plans.
If you’re looking to hire a habit coach, feel free to reach out. I can most likely connect you with someone great. You can contact me here.