Reminder, Repetition and Reward

Written By Rdap Dan

Making New Habits That Stick

As a prison consultant, one of the hats I wear is one of motivation and personal coaching. Motivation Monday posts center on helping you change your mind, and ultimately your life. Harness the power of your thinking and you can achieve anything. So, let’s talk about making new habits that stick.

The clocks just moved forward an hour and spring is rapidly approaching. This is the perfect time of year to do some internal house cleaning and take action to change your mind, your habits and your future.

Mind Shifting

A lot of what we do, and ultimately what happens to us, results from the habits we engage in on a daily basis. Much of the time, we cycle through the day, taking the same actions without even thinking about the habits that are engrained in our minds. We move through the day on auto-pilot, not realizing we could have more of what we want if we just get out of the rut. Giant positive life changes can result from making simple shifts in the habits you operate by in your day-to-day life.

3 Steps To New Habits

Starting a new habit or breaking an old one comes down to 3 steps: Reminder – Repetition – Reward. Once you have those 3 steps down, you can use this tool over and over, to create the life you want for yourself.

To see this in action, let’s imagine I’m trying to start a habit of reading more often…


I need to make this as easy as possible. The easier it is, the harder for me to resist this new habit. Remembering to read every day might be hard at first, if I’m not used to doing that. I need to set some sort of reminder to trigger my mind to do this new task. If I know I have some free time right after dinner, then rinsing the dishes is going to be my reminder. So, every evening after dinner, when I rinse the dishes, this will be my reminder that it’s time to read for 30 minutes. Don’t let anything come between the reminder and the new habit. Do not stop off to talk to the kids first; forget about checking your work email; move straight into the action for the new habit.


Repetition is one of the keys to locking in the new habit. At first, I don’t need to worry about how many minutes I read or how many pages I cover. At this stage of habit building, performance is secondary to showing up. Just show up and do the thing you want to do and worry about building endurance or achieving higher performance later. Getting too hung up on doing it all or not doing it at all is a major reason people stop before they really get started.


Let’s not forget about rewards! It’s important to celebrate your wins, even small wins. My daily reward might be to tell myself something positive, like “Great job for showing up today!” (the internal dialogue you have with yourself has a massive impact on how you think and feel) or it might be drinking a cup of my favorite tea after I finish reading for the evening. Whatever it is, make it simple, easy to repeat and something that makes you happy.

Get Started

Where do you go from here? Your first step is to choose a habit that you want to form. If you’re breaking an old habit, consider replacing it with a new one at the same time. Make it something attainable; it doesn’t have to be too big or too difficult. Next, decide on your reminder and your reward. Then, get started!

Avoid Common Pitfalls

Any time you’re stepping out of your comfort zone, you can count on your inner critic to come out in full force. Watch out for common pitfalls that can derail your progress and stop your new habit in its tracks. Here are 5 common pitfalls to watch out for when working on a new habit:

  1. Over-complication – Keep your habit and your reminder as simple and easy as you can. Over-complicating the situation leads to burnout and makes it likely that you’ll stop following through after a short time.
  2. Not anticipating rough patches – There will be times you’d rather do something else and days you just don’t care. It’s important to know this is coming and push through it anyway. Sometimes you just have to come out of your feelings and go through the motions. It pays off, believe me.
  3. Looking at mistakes as failures – You’ll probably mess up now and then. You’re human. Look at a mistake as an opportunity to learn what didn’t work and how you felt when you made the mistake. Use that knowledge to do better. Failure is the lack of leveraging your mistakes. Mistakes do not equal failure.
  4. Procrastinating  – It’s easy to think about creating a new habit and changing your life. It’s harder to get started. Don’t put off starting until you feel ready because you may never feel ready. Just start now. Today. Any forward movement in the right direction is better than stating stagnate and wallowing in a toxic place.
  5. Negative self-talk – The inner critic is great at punching you in your weak spots. It may tell you what you did wasn’t good enough or hit you with every insult you’ve ever been hurt with in the past. When that happens, take a breath and realize this is part of the growth process. You get to choose what you believe. Here’s a little visualization tool that can help you take the power away from your inner critic: Close your eyes and visualize the negative thought written across a paper. Visualize drawing a circle around the thought. Then, imagine the circle getting smaller and less powerful… until it’s so tiny that you can no longer see it.

Get Support

If you’re facing a tough situation right now, such as going to – or serving time in – Federal Prison, your habits probably played a role in getting you in that spot. You might feel like you’re never going to enjoy life again, but that definitely does not have to be true.

Call me at 866-208-8997 and let’s talk about how to get you in a better place.

Dan Wise prison consultant

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