August 24, 2020 // by Laura Malone
So the school year is in full swing, you planned and prepared in every possible way, but you’re finding it’s painfully difficult to transform all your new wonderful ideas into habits that stick. Take a deep breath, my friend. Your plan can be successful. The magic is not in the act of simply deciding what your new habits will be for the year. The magic is in the systems that you put into place.
My Failed System
A few years ago, in an attempt to be a healthier family, I regularly stocked up on all kinds of fresh colorful veggies. Then when the kids were searching for snacks, I would say cheerfully, “Don’t forget there’s carrots and broccoli in the fridge.” To my surprise each week, I was trashing bunches of broccoli and carrots. They were wilted and molded. Wasted. Nobody had touched them.
I had a worthy endeavor. But buying the veggies and proclaiming their existence in the fridge had proved to be a failed system.
What is a Successful System?
In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear says it doesn’t matter how many times we say we’re going to perform a particular habit, or how bad we want it to happen. The key to making a new habit stick, is to create a powerful system that enables us to complete the habit easily while enjoying it.
A system is a set of steps that cue a behavior and cause a craving while inspiring a response that gives a satisfying reward. So, in my example of encouraging my family to eat healthier, their cue was me telling them where the veggies were. That cue didn’t create a craving and therefore there was not response or reward.
So, how do we create systems for the new habits we’re trying to implement into our homeschools and family’s lives? A successful system follows a cycle called the Habit Loop. It includes:
- Cue – Making it obvious.
- Craving – Making it attractive.
- Response – Making it easy.
- Reward – Making it satisfying.
Creating a Successful System
So, here’s how I transformed my “eating healthier” system from landing in the trash bin to being enjoyed at the table.
Making it Obvious & Attractive – Instead of leaving the veggies in the fridge, I prepared them ahead of time. After breakfast each morning, I began cutting the veggies up and arranging them nicely on a platter. I added a couple of their favorite fruits and stored them in the fridge. Every day, around mid-morning, I pulled the beautiful tray out and displayed it on the island in the kitchen with a couple of tasty dips, including chocolate hummus (Yes, this is a thing!). The presentation and dip options created a craving that led to a response.
Making it Easy & Satisfying – By making it easily accessible and cutting it up ahead of time, snacking on it was a simple three step process. We simply picked it up, dipped it and put it in our mouths. I made it very easy for all of us to respond. Each time one of us would walk through the kitchen, which is in the middle of our house, we would go for another bite, not really thinking about it. Sometimes, I would put it in the middle of the school table and we would munch while working. The inclusion of chocolate and tasty dips was the reward. I only brought it out for the fruits and veggies so they began to look forward to it.
James Clear says, “Without the first three steps, a behavior will not occur. Without all four, the behavior will not be repeated.” How can you apply this system to the habits you’re trying to incorporate into your homeschool this year?
Do you want to do more read-alouds? Maybe you want the kids to exercise daily or get some kind of a cleaning system down. Are you making it obvious? Attractive? Could you stock up on a few mysterious or enchanting books and leave them sitting out in the family area for all to see and anticipate? Are you enabling an easy response? Could you organize a box of fun exercise equipment? Do you have exercise games at hand and designated for each day or do the kids sit around arguing about what to play and how to play? Is the reward satisfying? What happens if the cleaning gets done? A bowl of ice cream for everyone? Playdates in your clean house with friends? (Never mind, bad idea!)
I challenge you to pick one habit you’d like to begin in your homeschool this year and map out your Habit Loop. Think through how to make it:
- Easy &
When you do, comment below and tell me about it. I’m rooting for you!