Using temptation bundling can increase your motivation and help you build good habits. It’s simple; you pair something you enjoy with something you would like to enjoy. This way, you develop a positive association with the new thing and eventually crave it.
Coffee and alcohol do this automatically. Most people don’t actively decide to start enjoying these disgusting beverages; they start drinking coffee to boost their alertness and alcohol to decrease it.
I chose the word disgusting for a reason; many would disagree and say that these beverages are delicious. But both are very bitter, which we typically perceive as bad. However, with the help of copious amounts of sugar, we have learned to mask this bitter flavour. This sugar makes these drinks more appealing until we learn to associate them with their side effects.
If disgusting drinks can become the most regularly savoured beverages on the planet, you too can use temptation bundling to develop any longevity habit. The bonus of using this method to build longevity habits is that you will eventually see the direct benefits of these habits. Let’s get started and explore how you can use this pairing effect.
How temptation bundling works
You can bundle temptations with new habits in parallel or in sequence. Whether you believe it or not, we are terrible multi-taskers. Attempting to multi-task leads to doing the tasks slower and not as well.
Without the ability to multi-task, it seems redundant to do things in parallel, but the exception comes when one of those tasks has become automated. Think about how much attention it takes to fold laundry, walk or do the dishes. You can do these tasks easily with the television, music or an audiobook playing in the background.
If the habit you are trying to develop is purely mental, you could pair it with a physical task that has become automated. One I enjoy is walking with an audiobook; this allows me to catch up on books while getting my dose of exercise for the day. What are some activities that you usually combine? Talk about them in the comment section to inspire someone else to do the same.
Another combination I use to make my leisure time more constructive: watching Netflix in foreign languages. This bundling lets me catch up on my series while practicing a new language.
Some combinations work better than others. When two activities require equal attention, it is best to keep them separate. I suggest not watching Netflix while driving; that is where doing tasks in parallel gets dangerous and should be avoided. Instead, do tasks that require focus in sequence. Drive first, then when you safely arrive at your destination, you can reward yourself with an episode.
Habits in sequence
It is best to do more complicated habits in sequence rather than together. Listening to a podcast while trying to do your taxes could cause you to make mistakes and not understand the conversation.
Rather than doing them simultaneously, reward the challenging activity with the enjoyable one. Sticking with the taxes example, you could reserve your favourite meal for after completing essential tasks. Then, you will be motivated to complete important tasks as they will mean you get to enjoy that lovely meal.
In Eat that frog, Bryan Tracy illustrates this by saying:
“If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.”
Hopefully, your task is not eating ugly frogs, but the analogy works for just about anything. Accomplishing the most crucial and challenging tasks first will give you more energy and motivation to do the easier ones later.
I have repeatedly talked about the benefits of cold showers. Cold showers are a hard habit to develop as you can easily avoid them, and they are uncomfortable. While learning to have fun with it is important, it is unlikely to happen initially.
Suppose you need more than the rewards of healthier skin and increased cold tolerance. In that case, you can boost your motivation to take cold showers by rewarding yourself with a hot beverage afterwards or snuggling with a good book under a blanket. Rewards such as these can significantly improve your chance of sticking with challenging habits as you learn to enjoy even the most unpleasant activities.
In the same way, we learn to appreciate the bitter drinks mentioned above; you can learn to enjoy anything if you make it rewarding enough. As the perceived rewards of the habits themselves get better and their difficulty decreases, you will not need to reward yourself for completing them.
Why you bundle matters
To work profoundly means dedicating all your attention to a single task. Chögyam Trungpa illustrates this beautifully in The Path is the Goal when he writes:
“… something has to be given up somewhere. Some renunciation somewhere is necessary. One stone kills one bird.”Chögyam Trungpa
As mentioned earlier, multi-tasking is futile as it leads you to do more things less well and slower. Instead, I suggest that you use an enjoyable activity as a reward for a habit you are working to develop.
Use the reward to motivate you to get started, then use the feedback loop of motivation to maintain your momentum and build the habit you are working on. Schedule a session with me to find the best combinations that work for you.
Bundles to avoid
Before you go, You should know that some combinations should be avoided. These unsustainable combinations may help you develop a good habit but be cancelled out by the bad habit you pick up simultaneously.
Ice cream, pizza, or whatever other comfort food you want can be great motivators for big goals like running a marathon. But it would be best if you didn’t reward yourself with them every time you exercise.
Similarly, watching an episode of your favourite show to celebrate completing a project is a great way to unwind but not if the project is shorter than the episode.
Reward yourself for becoming the best you possible; be smart about it.
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