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If This, Then That

QUOI Media via Flickr CC

Reaching your goals takes hard work, drive and, more than anything, consistent action that moves you in the direction of your goals.

One of the challenges to your ability to take right action is habits – or lack of them. Our habits either take us where we want to go or hold us back perpetually. Everyone operates this way. Millionaires and drug addicts are both driven by habits, it’s just one of them has better habits.

Once you determine the actions you must take in order to move towards your dreams, you must get in the habit of taking those actions routinely.

While doing some of my habitual web surfing, digging and discovering recently I came across a web app called If This, Then That or IFTTT.com. The idea behind the service is pure genius and in my opinion a tool that you should check out.

I’ll get back to this idea of goal achievement in a moment, but first a bit more about the IFTTT concept. The service is a simple adaptation of a very commonly applied programming concept called conditional statements.

A simple example of this use is when you login to a site where you have an account. Behind the scenes the programming script uses a “trigger,” your correct login credentials, to take an “action,” show you the site. If you used the wrong password it would further take the action of telling you so.

IFTTT.com take this idea into the practical realm of recipes designed to help you automate tasks that might make your online life easier or more efficient. The idea behind a recipe is that you define a trigger – such as “If I post to Twitter” – and then define a supplemental action – such as “send a copy to Evernote.”

With this conditional statement in place (of course you have to provide access to both your Twitter and Evernote accounts) you would automatically create a note in Evernote that creates a record of every one of your Tweets.

The specific example above may or may not be something you find useful, but the creative possibilities of this type of conditional statement creation are mind-boggling once you start to think about it.

Now, remember how I started this post off talking about creating habits that move you towards your goals?

As I played around with this trigger and action thinking it dawned on me that I’ve been using this concept for years in my own habit formation and you can use it as well to help cement actions that you need to take.

If there’s an action that you know you need to take routinely, the trick to doing it more consistently and perhaps even making it a bit more fun to do is to connect a trigger to it’s achievement.

I believe you can use this for the simplest of tasks to even more time consuming, mentally and physically challenging actions. In fact, you can even use this conditional thinking to turn habit formation into a bit of a game.

Here’s a very simple example that I noticed I’ve been doing without even thinking about it.

One of the habits I try to support is water consumption. Most days my goal is to consume a gallon of water. On the days when I’m at my desk I use this conditional programming – if I need to go to the bathroom, then I need to refill my water bottle.

I know this is a pretty simple example, but I think it might help you start to see the logic behind the concept and how applying this logic to many areas could help you keep the focus on positive habit development.

Even little things take on a multiplier effect when you start accomplishing them routinely.

So, what about some other possible recipe creations?

The first step is to identify a goal and then identify an action that would help you move towards that goal. Finally, attach a trigger, something that you already do, and match it up with the action.

Let’s say you want to write 5 handwritten notes each week to people in your network, but you never seem to remember to do it.

How about this – If I get a new order confirmation, then write 1 handwritten note. (Obviously, you need to make it apply to your business situation, but I hope you get the idea.)

Or, what about some of these:

  • If I hang up from a phone call, then do 10 pushups
  • If I get a referral, then make a referral
  • If you get a new customer, then call up an existing customer
  • If you end a meeting, then find 2 blog post ideas
  • If you make a sales call, then watch a how to video

I also think you can use this thinking to replace some of the habits that aren’t serving you well. Think about some of the unconscious ways you are using conditional behavior already. Most emotional eating and even smoking is linked to if this, then that behavior – you just don’t know it anymore.

What if you started to reprogram the action you took in response to the trigger?

Perhaps none of these simple examples apply to your current goal situation but I hope your starting to see how using this technique while trying establish a new habit might just remove the resistance and thought involved in taking right action – many times it’s the thinking about doing something that keeps us from actually doing it.

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