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If you’re familiar with my work, you probably know that I believe that habit formation is a function of habit selection. If you choose the right behavior for you and your situation, everything else takes care of itself. You won’t have to use behavioral science tricks or habit hacks. You won’t need to buy another habit book ever again.
The 4 Es
The right behavior is one that follows The 4 Es:
1. It’s Effective
It reliably gets you what you want (or solves a problem you have).
2. It’s Easy
It’s easy for you given your talents, life situation, location, etc.
3. It’s Enjoyable
It’s fun. You actually feel good doing it. After you’re done doing it, you want to do it again.
4. It’s Exciting
It’s something that, the first time you heard about it, you wanted to do. It just sounds cool or interesting.
Creating a Habit Menu
Whenever I work with people who want to form a new habit or improve their life in some way, I walk them through a Behavioral Strategy process. This is normally something that I do with companies, to help them achieve Behavior Market Fit, but the same approach works well for individuals who want to achieve a particular outcome.
At the end of a Behavioral Strategy process, we’re left with a long, rank-ordered list of different behaviors that can help us reach our goal—business or personal. The behaviors are ranked according to how well they score across The 4 Es listed above.
The high scoring behaviors will be those that will move you to your goal most effectively while also being easy, enjoyable, and exciting.
The 10-20 top-scoring behaviors from this list are your Habit Menu. They are the things you can do whenever you’d like to move closer to your goal. Each day, you can pick whichever behavior looks best from your Habit Menu, and do it. The same way you might not always be in the mood for a turkey sandwich or chopped salad, you might not always be in the mood to go running or go to the gym. However, you still want to be able to move towards your goals each day. That’s why we spend the time to create a Habit Menu. We want to create, ahead of time, a list of behaviors that we know work with our life situation and allow us to enjoyably move towards our desires.
My advice is to pick the highest ranked behavior and give that a shot first. Do it as much as you want. When you get tired of it (whether that’s in a day, week, month, or year), go back to your Habit Menu and pick another highly ranked behavior. Do the new behavior until you get tired of it, and then go back to the Habit Menu once again.
For each goal you have, it’s necessary to create a Habit Menu filled with different activities you can do.