I recently finished reading the book Triggers. As part of my work I'm always researching and studying ways to successfully create behavioral change and implement new habits. Whenever I find a new tool I get very excited and right away introduce it to my students and try it out myself.
I've written about many of the concepts referred to in the book – like the power of your environment and the people you surround yourself with, taking baby steps, having a plan and keeping track.
Triggers introduced me to a brilliant new way of holding yourself accountable to become the person you want to be with what he calls "daily questions". "Daily questions" is a series of questions you ask yourself at the end of the day to see how well you did with each one. You then give yourself a score between 1 and 10 for each. If you've ever tracked your steps or your weight – it's the same idea – what gets measured improves.
What makes this technique unique and so effective is how you ask the questions. Instead of using your inner strict parent voice like "Did you exercise today?", he recommends starting the question with “Did you do your best?”. This simple but profound semantic adjustment makes all the difference.
There's several reasons why the practice works so well.
"Daily questions" puts the emphasis on your efforts instead of the outcome. For example, obsessing with the number on the scale is the wrong way to approach weight loss. Instead, focus on the behaviors that lead to the result you're after. In this way you can put your attention on developing the habits of the kind of person who has the weight you're trying to achieve.
In determining the questions we want to ask ourselves, we're deciding what behaviors will take us where we need to go. We're determining what we really want and who we want to become – that practice in and of itself is the first step in creating positive change.
“The [Daily Questions] announce our intention to do something and, at the risk of private disappointment or public humiliation, they commit us to doing it”.
The daily check-in also reminds us to take things one day at a time.Incremental improvements compound into big results. By focusing on doing our best every day, we shrink overwhelming changes into manageable 24-hour bite-size chunks.
“Daily Questions remind us that: Change doesn’t happen overnight. Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out. If we make the effort, we will get better. If we don’t, we won’t”.
This commitment device also takes us out of victim mentality and assumes 100% responsibility for our actions. We will never change anything if we don't think that we have the power to do so. The daily questions remind us in our role in making it happen.
We are the only ones who can hold ourselves accountable. It takes great courage to measure ourselves and face up to our own shortcomings. However, when we do, change is possible.
“This ‘active’ process will help anyone get better at almost anything. It only takes a couple of minutes a day. But be warned: it is tough to face the reality of our own behavior—and our own level of effort—everyday”
These are my daily questions:
Did I do my best to...
- be grateful and appreciate what I have
- do my MIT's first
- develop new material
- get to equilibrium zero
- cultivate ease
- make my courses a transformative and unforgettable experience
- love up my community
- not eat sugar
- learn and develop a new skill
- preserve and nurture my relationships
- use buffer blocks to check my email
- focus and be fully engaged
- listen deeply
- be patient and loving with Max and Gavin
These questions have helped me live a more intentional, values-aligned and purpose-driven life. In small yet profound ways, they've helped sway me towards better choices in each and every moment.
By the way, for all you techies - there's an app! I recommend enabling the reminder setting.