Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t Break The Chain Theory
Years ago, when Jerry Seinfeld was an up and coming comedian, he made a commitment to himself to get better at his craft, and in the process, created a system of productivity practiced by many. So the story goes: Seinfeld wanted to write new jokes every day. So he got a wall calendar, and every day that he wrote, he crossed off with a big red x. After a few days, he realized he had created a writing streak for himself, and continued to up the ante.
Those red x's on the calendar created a chain, and Seinfeld made a commitment: Don’t break the chain. And over the years, this practice became second nature to Seinfeld, his writing habits and the craft he continues to hone to this day.
According to software developer Brad Isaac, “Daily action builds habits. It gives you practice and will make you an expert in a short time. If you don't break the chain, you'll start to spot opportunities you otherwise wouldn't. Small improvements accumulate into large improvements rapidly because daily action provides "compounding interest."
Unknowingly, Seinfeld’s quest to write created a streak. And streaks are a powerful psychological tool for the formation of habits. Why? Because we’re wired for repetition. And if you continue to repeat a behavior daily, you essentially transform it into an automatic behavior, one that doesn’t take much thought to accomplish. You just do it because you’ve been doing it, like brushing your teeth or drinking coffee each morning.
It’s no longer a commitment, it’s autopilot.
Creating New Habits
Of course, not all of us are aspiring comedy writers. Some of us are simply looking to improve our day to day outlooks on health, wellness, nutrition, fitness or any number of beneficial practices as head into the new year. And for most of, it not all, of us, creating new habits in the New Year is easily achievable through a science-backed approach. These five steps can help.
Set A Specific Goal
Don’t head into the new year thinking about overly lofty goals. Get specific with your goals, because it will make it easier to track progress. If you’re tackling a new fitness challenge, don’t start out thinking you’re going to be an olympic weightlifter by the summer. Instead, commit to a certain lift and weight goal by the summer, then reexamine as needed.
Stack Your Habits
Rather than pairing your new habit with a particular time and location, try pairing it with a current habit. This method, created by BJ Fogg of Tiny Habits fame, takes a scientific approach to adding new habits into your day. If you want to achieve more steps in your day, consider habit stacking as the way to get there. Think of it this way: After every meal I eat, I commit to walking 2000 steps. By linking your new habits to a cycle that is already built into your brain, you make it more likely that you’ll stick to the new behavior. Soon enough, you’re walking more each day without even thinking about it.
Carve Out Time Every Day
Habits form faster when we do them more often. Dedicating time each day to your new habit will transform your new endeavor into a habit in no time at all. In fact, British researchers studied how people form habits in the real world, asking participants to choose a simple habit they wanted to form, like drinking water at lunch or taking a walk before dinner. The study, published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, showed that the amount of time it took for the task to become automatic — a habit — ranged from 18 to 254 days. The median time was 66 days!
Make It Fun
According to the Journal of Consumer Research, “Bringing immediate rewards into activity choice—for example, having participants choose the most enjoyable rather than the most useful exercise or the tastier rather than healthier bag of carrots—increases persistence and consumption.” Making your new habit forming fun will make it stick. If you’re looking to join a gym in the new year or commit to going more often, consider functional fitness classes that change daily and inject fun into the workouts. And if you want to run more often, consider taking different routes through town over the same old treadmill in the basement every day.
When I got my first Fitbit, I quickly became obsessed with getting 10,000 steps each day. And achieving it one day meant I ended up going for over 70 more days until I developed a cold and had to rest for a day. As silly as it sounds, I hated myself for breaking the streak and losing the green check mark. I wasn’t allowing for variability in my step goal, and that was my bad. According to educator Sam Blanco, PhD, LBA, BCBA, “If you build in variations in routine and teach your learner some strategies for being flexible, you and your learner are much more likely to be successful in navigating unexpected changes.” Walking 10,000 steps for over 70 days was an accomplishment. Learning that I could break the streak and not beat myself up was even bigger though.
The Restore Do More Challenge
In 2023, Restore is hosting monthly challenges that will help empower you to create healthy habits. Each month we’ll release two challenges! One you can do at home OR one to be completed at your local Restore. Or both, because why not? This month, we’re focused on the element of light. Studies show that 15 minutes of morning light can help improve skin, focus, metabolism and sleep. It might even help reduce inflammation.
Challenge yourself to…
Get 15 minutes of sunshine every day.
AT YOUR RESTORE:
How many sessions of Red Light Therapy can you do this month? Challenge yourself to a new personal record. *Pro tip: Red Light Therapy sessions can be done once per day!
Get on Instagram, and use hashtag #RestoreDoMoreChallenge to share your progress! And have a safe and happy new year forming new habits!
Curious about Red Light Therapy at Restore? We can help get you started.