Best Practices for Using Habits with Your Clients

 

The exact science of behavioral change is made up of a longer process, but it is possible to transform client behaviors by starting small.

The problem is that most clients set big and often unrealistic goals for change which can become overwhelming and easy to fail at. The fail loop encourages them to stop making even smaller changes. For example, setting a goal of cooking meals at home 6 times a week can make a client feel discouraged and quit the goal altogether if they already ate out 3 times in a week.

Stanford professor, BJ Fogg, recommends that we start slowly. If we want clients to build a bedtime routine habit, we should encourage them to start by doing this one or 2 times a week, then slowly progress to more times. This is what BJ Fogg calls the ‘Minimum Viable Effort’. Here’s what he has to say:

Make it tiny. To create a new habit, you must first simplify the behavior. Make it tiny, even ridiculous. A good tiny behavior is easy to do — and fast.

It may sound way too small to make a difference, but small ads up when repeated time and time again. Once they are doing it consistently, make the steps bigger. That works far better than being too ambitious initially and then quitting. Learn more by watching this video with BJ Fogg.

When prescribing client habits focus on:

  • Number of habits at a time:
    Although you can set an unlimited number of habits at once, as a best practice it's best to work on a maximum of 3 habits at once.

  • Duration of the habits:
    Once clients form a particular habit, usually in a period of 1 to 3 weeks, it's recommended to prescribe a new habit or to stack new habits to the already formed habits. Learn more about habit stacking.

 

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