Habit Building isn’t Rocket Science, but it may be Computer Science

Building a habit isn’t rocket science, but it can be pretty close to computer science. Computer scientists control computers by telling them what to do in a logical step by step manner.  For example, if you want to teach a computer how to open a jar of peanut butter, telling it to twist off the lid would only confuse it. Instead, you first need to explain what the jar and lid are. You need to teach it how to hold the jar with a certain amount of force so it doesn’t fall to the floor, and that the lid will only come off if it is turned a certain amount of times with a certain amount of force. Your instructions need to be step by step and broken into small segments that the computer can understand.

Your health and fitness goals should be broken down the same way. To reach your goal and build new habits, break your goals into sub-goals. Write an action plan for each sub-goal, and complete one action at a time until you reach your sub-goal. If your goal is to lose weight, you want to create habits that allow you to lose and keep off weight. Start by setting a sub-goal, maybe it might be to stop drinking soda. Your action item for this sub-goal might be to limit your soda intake to only 1 soda per day for the next month and then to completely eliminate it. After not drinking soda for a couple months it will start becoming a habit, and you can then move onto a new sub-goal.

Computer scientists also use a concept called if-then statements in their instructions. These statements are ways of saying, for example, if the peanut butter jar is already open, then close it. Use if-then statements in your plan, such as “if I am thirsty, then I will drink water instead of soda.” You can also use this to reward yourself. For example, you can say “if I go a month without drinking a single soda, then I will reward myself with one day I can drink whatever I want.”

By breaking your goals into sub-goals, setting action items that can be repeated daily for each sub-goal, and using if-then statements to plan for different situations that can prevent you from reaching your goal, you will be on track to set new habits that will allow you to sustain long-term goals.


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