Use Cues to Your Advantage

July 26, 2016

Categories: Habits

I’m reading a great book called ‘Start Here’ by Eric Langshur and Nate Klemp. The book is about making habits and developing emotional fitness in your life. One of their key points is the importance of identifying cues to remind you of the habit you are trying to develop.

Cues are important because we have a tendency to forget. There have been several times I have started to work on a habit (e.g., mindfulness, gratitude, exercise, etc.), only to fail to keep up with it over time. I might do really well for a couple of days, but then I get busy, lose focus, and forget about the habit I am working toward. Having a cue helps because it grabs our focus, reminding us to get back on track.

Here are a couple of examples of cues that Langshur and Klemp recommend in their book. First, to develop the habit of presence, they recommend using the shower as a cue. The shower is something you do every day, and it is one place where you are free from distractions such as television and email. Every time you step into the shower, let it be a cue to practice the habit of presence. Focus on the present moment—the sensation of the water as it touches your body. Once you get into the habit of practicing presence in the shower, you can begin to practice it during other times of your day as well. But start with the shower.

Second, to develop the habit of gratitude, they recommend using mealtime as a cue. Eating is something you generally do three times per day. When you sit down to eat, pause for a moment and think about one thing you are grateful for. Think about it for about 15-30 seconds, and then start eating. If you are eating with friends or family, tell them about this practice, and see if each person might want to share one thing they are grateful for before you start your meal. Once you get into the habit of practicing gratitude at mealtime, you can begin to practice it during other times of your day as well. But start with mealtime.

When you are trying to develop a habit in your life, see if you can identify a cue that you can link to the habit. Make sure it is a cue that happens everyday. It is helpful if the cue is closely connected to the habit in some way. For example, giving thanks before mealtime is a common practice in several religious traditions, and it is even a big part of one of our national holidays (i.e., Thanksgiving). So it’s easier to connect the cue of mealtime with the practice of gratitude in our minds.

Discussion: What is one habit or practice you are working to develop in your own life? What is one cue that you can identify that could help remind you of the habit?


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