James Clear has written a book called Atomic Habits in which he describes four stages of habit formation and how they can be applied in coaching others to create new, more serving habits.
Even if you are not a coach, some of the thoughts in this blog will surely serve you in questioning the habits that serve, and the ones that don’t.
The four stages of habit formation are:
A Cue: The first stage of habit formation is the cue, which is a trigger that initiates the behavior. The cue could be something like a time of day, a particular location, a specific feeling, or an action that precedes the habit. In coaching, you can help individuals identify their cues and become aware of what triggers their current habits.
The Craving: The second stage of habit formation is craving, which is the motivational force behind the behavior. The craving is what drives the individual to act on the habit. In coaching, you can help individuals understand why they have a particular craving and what they hope to gain from the habit.
The Response: The third stage of habit formation is the response, which is the actual behavior or action that the individual takes in response to the cue and craving. In coaching, you can help individuals choose an appropriate response to their cues and cravings that aligns with their values and goals.
The Reward: The fourth and final stage of habit formation is the reward, which is the outcome or benefit that the individual receives from the behavior. The reward reinforces the habit and makes it more likely that the individual will repeat it in the future. In coaching, you can help individuals identify the rewards they receive from their current habits and help them create new, more serving rewards for their desired habits.
By understanding these four stages of habit formation, coaches can help their clients create new, more serving habits by identifying and addressing each stage, and so can you!
Coaches can help individuals identify their cues and cravings, choose an appropriate response, and create new, more serving rewards that will help reinforce the desired behavior.
Additionally, coaches can help individuals develop strategies to overcome obstacles and maintain their new habits over time.
Here are some questions you can use to help discover what is holding your client’s or yourself back:
· What triggers your current habit?
· When do you find yourself engaging in the habit?
· Are there any patterns or specific times when you tend to engage in the habit?
· What emotions or thoughts precede the habit?
· What do you hope to gain from the habit?
· How does the habit make you feel in the moment?
· What emotions or thoughts are associated with the habit?
· Is there a deeper need or desire that the habit is fulfilling?
· What actions do you take in response to the cue and craving?
· Are there any specific barriers or obstacles that prevent you from engaging in the desired behavior?
· What specific steps can you take to create a more serving response to the cue and craving?
· What benefits do you currently receive from the habit?
· Are there any negative consequences of the habit?
· How can you create new, more serving rewards that align with your values and goals?
In addition to these questions, it can be helpful to explore your client’s beliefs and values around the habit, as well as any past experiences or traumas that may be contributing to the habit. By understanding your client’s motivations and barriers at each stage of habit change, you can better tailor your coaching to their individual needs and help them achieve lasting behavior change.
Further to his groundbreaking book, James Clear speaks publicly about the four stages using different words to describe the stages.
He describes the stages in his presentation that you can find on YouTube (https://youtu.be/mNeXuCYiE0U) as;
While James Clear’s descriptions of the four stages of habit formation may use different words, they are still referring to the same underlying concepts as the previous four stages I mentioned earlier. I don’t see these descriptions as contrary positions, but rather as complementary ways of framing the same process.
For example, “Noticing” in Clear’s framework is analogous to “Cue” in the earlier framework. Both refer to the trigger or prompt that initiates the behavior. “Wanting” is similar to “Craving,” referring to the motivational force behind the behavior. “Doing” is similar to “Response,” referring to the actual behavior or action taken in response to the cue and craving. Finally, “Liking” is similar to “Reward,” referring to the outcome or benefit that the individual receives from the behavior.
By using different language to describe the four stages, Clear may be emphasizing different aspects of the habit formation process or appealing to a different audience. However, the underlying concepts are still the same, and both frameworks can be used effectively to help individuals create new, more serving habits.
Resistance is a concept introduced by Steven Pressfield in his book “The War of Art,” which refers to the inner force that holds us back from pursuing our goals and making positive changes in our lives. In my opinion, resistance can be a major obstacle to habit change or formation.
When we try to create new habits or break old ones, we often encounter resistance in the form of self-doubt, fear, procrastination, or other negative thoughts and emotions. This resistance can make it difficult to act and can cause us to revert back to our old habits, even if we know that they are not serving us.
In order to overcome resistance and create new, more serving habits, we need to develop strategies to manage our thoughts and emotions and take consistent action toward our goals. This might include setting specific goals, creating a plan of action, seeking support from others, and practicing self-compassion and self-care.
Additionally, it can be helpful to reframe our mindset around habit change and view it as a process of growth and self-improvement, rather than a task to be completed.
By focusing on the positive benefits of our desired habits and reminding ourselves of our larger purpose and values, we can stay motivated and committed to our new habits, even in the face of resistance.
Overall, I believe that resistance is a natural and inevitable part of the habit change process, and learning to manage it effectively is crucial to creating lasting behavior change.
There are several symptoms or expressions of resistance that you may notice in yourself or your clients when trying to create new habits or make positive changes in your life. Here are some common signs of resistance to look out for:
Procrastination: Putting off tasks or actions that are necessary to create the desired habit.
Rationalization: Making excuses or justifying why it’s not the right time to create a new habit.
Self-doubt: Feeling unsure of your ability to create a new habit or achieve your goals.
Fear: Being afraid of failure or success or feeling anxious about the changes that creating the new habit might bring.
Distraction: Getting easily sidetracked or allowing other tasks or activities to take priority over creating the new habit.
Negativity: Focusing on the potential obstacles or challenges of creating the new habit rather than the benefits.
It’s important to note that experiencing resistance is a normal part of the habit change process, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you or your client is doing something wrong.
However, it’s important to be aware of these symptoms and to develop strategies to overcome them in order to make lasting changes.
When you or your client notice these symptoms of resistance, it can be helpful to take a step back and re-evaluate the underlying motivations and goals behind the desired habit.
It may also be helpful to seek support from others, practice self-care and self-compassion, and break down the habit-creation process into smaller, more manageable steps.
By being aware of the symptoms of resistance and developing strategies to manage them, you and your clients can stay on track and create lasting, positive changes in your lives.
Good luck with habit change!