How I got started in habits, part 2
...continued from part 1.
When I went out on that porch, I started reading about actions I could take to have better conversations. There were lots of tips. This was the kind of thing I was expecting when I picked up the book.
I made a commitment to ask more open-ended questions about things I was sincerely interested in. I opened my journal, and I wrote down the goal. I recorded my purpose for wanting to form this new habit. I described the result I expected to achieve if I formed this new habit. I laid out my plan for how long and how often I would commit to the practice (until it would hopefully become a habit).
This was a natural plan of action for me. All I had to do was notice the things that piqued my interest, and open my mouth more often. And when I opened my mouth, I just had to do it in such a way that the appropriate response would be a sentence instead of "Yes" or "No."
It felt sincere, which was important to me. It didn't feel like I was trying to become another person. It just felt like I was trying to become more like me. Does that make any sense?
At the end of the book, I found something that I was not looking for. I found a section with strategies for forming new habits. In other words, I found actions I could take that would make "future me" more likely to do what I told him.
The first strategy I tried was called "scaffolding." The idea was to build up frequency slowly. Day 1, I would just try to ask one open-ended question about something that sincerely interested me. Day 2, I would try to ask two open-ended questions.
The beauty of this strategy was it took an easy goal, and made it even easier, to the point that it would be ridiculous not to achieve it.
I didn't tell anyone about my little goal.
A couple weeks later I was talking on the phone with my mother-in-law. I was asking her about her gardening (an interest of mine), and talked with her for 20 or 30 minutes. When I got off the phone, my wife looked at me and said, "It sounds like you just had a good conversation with my mom! What gives?"
"Well, I've been wanting to garden more, so I just asked your mom about her gardening. And we had a good talk."
So I wondered, "Is this repeatable? Are there more strategies I can use to decide to change something and be confident that I'll follow through?"
Thus began my obsession with habit-formation. And it wasn't boring. It was fun. I loved the feeling of being in control of my own life.
But I still had one fundamental problem I needed to deal with...