If you've ever tried to lose weight, quit smoking, train for your first half marathon, or reach some other lofty personal development goal, one thing becomes clear very quickly: establishing new habits is tough stuff.
Chris Boyce feels your pain. He's the CEO at Virgin Pulse, a company partially held by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group that develops mobile and desktop apps aimed at helping workforces develop healthy habits. Its products are similar to those offered by consumer wellness companies--think a mobile feature that gently prods employees to make daily progress toward, say, a financial goal, and a wrist band similar to a Fitbit that tracks activity and sleep habits. But Virgin Pulse aims to compete mainly with wellness programs offered by insurance companies.
Boyce says the difference with Pulse is that it strives to offer something responsive to employees’ desires, rather than prescribing specific actions or participation. And Pulse uses positive reinforcement to help people establish new habits.
Inc. recently caught up with Boyce to discuss a five-pronged approach for making habits stick, regardless of whether you use a wearable device:
Establish your own priorities.
You're never going to achieve someone else's notion of an ideal goal. It has to be your own so that you're fully invested. As such, Virgin Pulse doesn’t like to tell employees what to do. Instead, the company asks employees to pick their own goals. “We just want you to enjoy it, start to play with it,” says Boyce.
Make it easy.
Boyce likes to journal, but finds it hard sometimes to get all his thoughts down on paper. He finds he wants to write everything down. So, he’s made the approach easier: he makes a point of writing down just three things he’s thankful for after his daily meditation session. He finds the burst of writing helps him sleep better.
Need to get in the habit of walking your dog? Put his leash on the door you typically use to exit the house. It's a simple gesture but it will act as a trigger to remind you to take him out. Want to walk more? Put your tennis shoes by your door. When you trip over them as you leave for work, pick them up and stash them in your car. Seeing the shoes will remind you of your goal.
Celebrate your success.
No matter how small a feat your achievement is, let yourself feel good about it. Boyce uses stepping on the scale as an example. He thinks it would be nice if scales didn’t just show you your weight, but displayed a message along the lines of “Hey, it’s really cool that you decided to take care of yourself.”
Another example that’s less directly wellness-related and more work related might be meeting a deadline on a small part of a big project. Maybe you haven’t yet conquered your Goliath, but you’re on your way.
Talk and revise.
Whatever your goals are, talk them out with others in the workplace setting their own goals. You can get ideas from others’ struggles and triumphs.