The Secret to Using Your Personality to Hack Habits

As spring settles in and the second quarter of the year unfolds, many are taking a new look at their New Year’s resolutions. For the majority of us, we’ve already fallen behind on what we hoped to achieve. But, we still feel like there’s enough time to catch up and deliver what we set out […]

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As spring settles in and the second quarter of the year unfolds, many are taking a new look at their New Year’s resolutions. For the majority of us, we’ve already fallen behind on what we hoped to achieve. But, we still feel like there’s enough time to catch up and deliver what we set out to accomplish–if only we could stick to the plan!

The truth is we’re not alone. Rather grim statistics show only 8 percent of us will actually complete our New Year’s goals

How can this be?

Part of the problem is we’re fighting against our nature and other habits that already have a place in our lives. We’re relying on sheer willpower to change those old habits when what we should be focusing on is what we can do to make it easier on ourselves to accomplish our goals.

Charles Duhigg explains in his book, The Power of Habit, that by focusing on the habit loop, we can create new habits from our old ones. All we need to do is swap out the cue and the routine from an existing habit, and keep the rewards the same.

While that sounds simple enough, the fact that so many of us fail at our New Year’s resolutions shows it’s anything but easy.

Instead of trying to Jekyll and Hyde ourselves into something we were never born to be, habits are much easier to create and stick to if we use our personalities to help us along the way.

Here are different personalities we can have, and how we can use them to hack habits.

Photo: Hutomo Abrianto

Lazy Type-A

This is you if you’re the type of person who loves writing lists of things to do, creating audacious goals, and making promises to yourself about things you’re going to get done.

But…you actually never do it.

In school, you may have gotten good grades and handed all your assignments in on time, but you waited until the last minute to do so and often pulled all-nighters to get research papers done.

You do well when there’s accountability like real deadlines with consequences, or if there is absolutely no other choice.

For you, when it comes to changing your habits and getting closer to your dreams, the key is to create the external accountability you need.

Merely creating your own fake deadline doesn’t work. The pressure has to come from outside, rather than inside of you. For some, this means joining forces with an accountability partner or creating situations that are hard to back out of.

For example, if you’re a night owl and one of your longings is to wake up early, you can arrange to call a friend or have a friend call you to make sure you’re awake. Bonus points if there’s money on the line. Or, you can try to schedule early morning commitments as much as possible to make sure you don’t sleep in.

Others may find a solution in apps and tools like Alarmy and Stickk. Alarmy is a customizable alarm clock that doesn’t shut off until you complete a designated task, or mission as they call it. There are a variety of missions to choose from, and you can do just one or many. You can also pick different sounds and sound levels to wake you up.

Stickk, on the other hand, is a habit-forming app where you set a habit or goal, and then pick your consequence. One of the options is to donate to an anti-charity of your choice. If you’re pro-life, for example, just the thought of giving to a pro-choice organization if you fail might be enough to keep you on track. And once you commit, the only way to make changes to your plan is by emailing customer service.

Photo: Michael Prewett

Teacher’s Pet

When you were in school, you may have craved being praised by the teacher. Doing so made you feel good and you actively sought out situations that would make that happen. You wanted to be complimented for a job well done, and a reprimand from the teacher would send you down a spiral of panic.

Today, you find you that little boy or girl still resides inside of you. Although there are no more teachers, you always catch yourself seeking approval from others, and letting them down is hard for you.

To keep your goals, sharing them with the world might be just what you need. What you want is to connect what you hope to achieve with other people’s expectations.

Tell your friends, family, and Facebook communities what you plan to do and when you plan on doing it by. Many are going to support you in your efforts. You may start to feel that if you don’t live up to your promises, they would be disappointed in you. They would also help keep you accountable and make sure you’re making progress.

You could also tie what you want to achieve with a noble cause. If you aspire to lose weight, you can sign up for a 5k race or a half marathon. Then ask friends and family to commit to donating to a charity that is near and dear to your heart if you finish the race.

You’ll want to succeed not only because you don’t want to let down the people who could be helped by your donation, but also because you don’t want to let down your friends and family.

photo: Richard Austin

Wild Spirit

Your motto might as well be “Rules are for suckers.” You feel like rules were made to be broken and nothing brings out the inner rebel in you like being told you have to do something. It just makes you feel controlled, and that makes you want to run away. You’d much rather do things out of your own volition and on your own terms.

That’s why deadlines are suffocating.  Even self-imposed restrictions seem imprisoning, like telling yourself you must achieve a specific goal by an absolute deadline. You’d much rather work from a place of freedom and choose your actions based on what you feel like doing at that moment.  

One of the least effective actions to do if you’re a wild spirit is to get an accountability partner. While it may work great for others, the last thing you want is someone telling you what you should be doing and constantly checking in on your progress.  

Instead, wild spirits should develop a deep understanding and conviction of the “why” of their goals so it can serve as their strongest motivator to keep progressing, even when they’d rather not. You won’t feel like your being pushed to do something, but rather that you want to do it.

For instance, if you hope to get into the habit of drinking more water, don’t just arbitrarily tell yourself you have to drink one cup of water every two hours. Shift your focus to your history of kidney stones, and how if you neglect to up your water intake, another one could develop.

And with some people saying passing a kidney to stone is worse than giving birth, you probably won’t have any problems convincing yourself it’s important to drink more water.

Another tactic is to go at your habit in a different way than people usually do. When people diet, for instance, they typically undertake strict diet programs like keto and paleo that have strict guidelines of what you can and can’t eat. But if you’re a wild spirit, something more along the lines of the dieting principles presented in Mireille Guiliano’s book, French Women Don’t Get Fat, might be the solution to all your dieting woes.

Bottom Line

Instilling habits that propel you towards your goals are hard to do when using only willpower. When you use your natural inclinations to make things stick, habits fall into place much more easily. By adapting the science of how habits are formed to your personal style, you can be part of the elite 8 percent that crushes their New Year’s resolutions.

Once you learn how, there’s no limit to other goals you can achieve so that you can live a life you love.

When one of these personalities best describes you? What tricks do you use to help you form or change a habit in your life? Share below!

(Feature image: Miguel Bruna)

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