Assessing and developing your practice habit, Part 2
Creating an implementation intention for improving your motivation to practice is the most straightforward and effective step if you're just starting out
All of these options in the Part 1 quiz for improving your motivation to practice are valid:
Create a written one-month plan
Tell someone else about your goal
Reward yourself each time
Write out an implementation intention
Every week, review what will happen if you fail
But the most straightforward practical step is setting an implementation intention.
James Clear, the author of the best-selling book Atomic Habits, defines an implementation intention as "a plan you make beforehand about when and where to act. That is, how you intend to implement a particular habit."
Motivation is short-lived and doesn’t lead to consistent action. If you want to achieve your goals, then you need a plan for exactly when and how you’re going to execute on them.
He has a book excerpt on his website titled: Your Goals: Research Reveals a Simple Trick That Doubles Your Chances for Success. He details some research that was done:
... as the researchers put it, “Motivation … had no significant effects on exercise behavior.”
Compare these results to how most people talk about making change and achieving goals. Words like motivation, willpower, and desire get tossed around a lot. But the truth is, we all have these things to some degree. If you want to make a change at all, then you have some level of “desire.”
The researchers discovered that what pulls that desire out of you and turns it into real–world action isn’t your level of motivation, but rather your plan for implementation.
If you don’t plan out your behaviors, then you rely on your willpower and motivation to inspire you to act. But if you do plan out when and where you are going to perform a new behavior, your goal has a time and a space to live in the real world. This shift in perspective allows your environment to act as a cue for your new behavior.
To put it simply: planning out when and where you will perform a specific behavior turns your environment into a trigger for action. The time and place triggers your behavior, not your level of motivation.
Example: Griff's implementation intention
My New Year's Resolution for 2023 was to create a daily exercise habit for better overall fitness, especially strength. Why?
These two cartoons, while only partially accurate, help tell my story.
I was a skinny kid:
And I'm a skinny geezer:
I've always been a recreational athlete and strong enough to enjoy the sports that interested me. But a recent bone density test set off alarm bells. And my doctor says I've got a usual case of sarcopenia—age-related, involuntary loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength- soon worsening more rapidly.
I want to keep enjoying mountain biking and snowboarding. And for me, that requires continually trying to advance my skills which in turn involves a fair amount of falling. If I continue to weaken, the normal falling will trigger above-normal injuries.
And I eventually want to compete in the Centenarian Decathlon (yes, it’s a thing).
So I can’t ignore my accelerating lack of strength anymore. I've started to frequently read these two quotes to remind me of the importance of what I need to be doing:
If you don’t take time for your wellness, you will be forced to take time for your illness. - @Max Lugavere
“Your entire life happens inside your body. It's the one home you will always occupy and can never sell. But you can renovate it. If you can only pick one habit to build, exercise is probably the one. Everything is downstream from how your body is functioning.” - @James Clear
Atomic Habits author James Clear suggests starting small when creating a habit using the Two-Minute Rule, which is:
"When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do."
For me, it's a three-minute neck mobility drill that I do in 2-3 minutes.
I created an Implementation Intention using his formula:
I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION]
I initially set my intention every week with this statement:
During the next week, I will at least do my neck drill every day at 4 pm in my basement office.
After two months, I changed the time to “within 30 minutes of waking up” and the location to “on bottom steps of the living room stairs” as I discovered that 4 pm was the best timeslot for me to do resistance training with kettlebells and bands at home and the StrongLifts 5×5 workout program at my local Anytime Fitness gym in Northfield, MN.
Here's a photo of my exercise equipment closet in my basement home office:
There are many other aspects of successful habit development that I plan to learn about from James Clear. But I've been keeping it simple for the first four months of 2023: physical workouts.
Now that winter has almost departed (end of April? WTF!), I will create another implementation intention for practicing two different MTB skills during May. I'll announce it the first week of the month.
Your implementation intention
If you have a simple first step of a habit you'd like to create (it need not be MTB-related), add a comment below using the formula "I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION]" with some details about why creating a habit for it is essential to you.
MTB Practice Lab is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.