As we enter into and emerge from the varied seasons of each year, we inevitably face changes in how we live and work. Whether the seasons are changing from winter to spring, or the world enters the last push of the year and embraces the festivities of December, the foundations of habits uphold us through these changes. Finding balance in transitional periods relies on the management of energy resources - mental, emotional, and physical. The management of these resources relies on the formation and execution of habits. That is especially so as we encounter more stimulation in our social lives, changes in diet, fitness routines, and physical environments.
How the first month of next year will treat us ultimately depends on how well we recognise and uphold behaviours and systems that are beneficial, and establish discipline around those that are not. These processes of prioritisation are not inherent; they require tapping into habit formation. Science has been long exploring habit formation as a behaviour change mechanism. Although there is still ongoing debate about how long it takes for a habit to form, there exist interesting insights into how the development of habits can shield against motivational lapses, such as doing something on impulse or adhering to social pressure.
The stages of executing a habit are 1) cue, 2) craving, 3) response, and 4) reward. This process is developed automatically through the repetition of a behaviour - forming a habit. In anticipation of a reward, motivation carries us through the execution of a behaviour.
In reality, it is not necessarily about how enjoyable the actual behaviour is. Rather, it is about how strong the motivational cue is, and how satisfying the reward would be. Motivational lapses occur when the reward is perceived to be inordinately exceptional. For instance, this could look like buying more items during a sale, or eating more at the Christmas dinner. In acknowledging the process of habit formation, it would be possible to make good habits easy, and bad habits hard to execute. There are four steps to strengthening a good habit:
Cue: make it obvious.
Craving: make it attractive.
Response: make it easy.
Reward: make it satisfying.
In locking away bad habits, the steps are reversed:Cue: make it invisible.
Craving: make it unattractive.
Response: make it hard.
Reward: make it unsatisfying.
During times of change or challenge, we settle into the execution of habits - behaviours that have solidified to a point of being automatic. Finding balance lies in foreseeing change, and dedicating more intent towards structuring our systems to serve us. In its essence, creating balance is about determining what is important to keep, and continuing to prioritise it.