I want to let you in on a secret. I find it really hard to floss. I have an aversion to it. My gums bleed, it hurts and it feels altogether weird.
In short, I hate it. Some people hate flying, hospitals and clowns. I dislike flossing.
Or at least I did back then.
In the past, I had to endure being reminded by my dentist each visit how important it is and all the really good reasons why I should do it.
And up until recently, I ignored it.
Frustrated by my inability to overcome my aversion to flossing, I decided to book an appointment with a dental hygienist.
At my initial visit with the dental hygienist, I recall it being very uncomfortable, painful, invasive and took a long time. The dental hygienist was very patient and politely suggested I make a habit of flossing.
She even gave me some floss to take home.
Determined to break this aversion to flossing, I booked in to see her again in six months as I was walking out of her clinic.
My goal was simply to floss more often. To start.
The tactic I adopted was to put the floss in my bathroom cabinet in front of my contact lens case. Each night, I would then have to reach past the floss to pick up my contact lens case and place my contact lenses in before going to bed.
This I thought would act as a daily trigger to prompt me to think about flossing and hopefully execute.
So what happened next?
At first nothing. The tactic failed miserably. The awkward thought of flossing was still greater than the desire to adopt the new habit.
But the daily trigger of reaching past the floss to pick up my contact lens case continued.
And then one day I picked up the floss and flossed. Two days later I flossed again.
I’d broken the deadlock.
Of course I’d be tired and miss nights. And like any new habit I’d fall back. But the positioning tactic reminded me each day by bringing the habit back to the forefront of my mind.
Slowly but surely I would floss. Several nights each week.
And what’s happened since?
I went back for my six-monthly visit to see the dental hygienist and was surprised at how easy, painless and quick my next visit was. She was very complimentary on the state of my teeth and gums. The Dentist also came in for a quick check of my teeth, smiled and gave me the all clear.
This of course validated my adoption of the habit of flossing.
So what can we learn about success habits from flossing?
Quite a lot I think.
I had a deep-seated aversion to flossing so I introduced a strategy around how I would adopt it. I changed things up by booking an appointment with the dental hygienist. I accepted the floss that she gave me with a promise to her that I would try and floss more often.
I adopted a key tactic that would act as a trigger each day by positioning the floss in the bathroom cabinet. A daily physical reminder to floss.
I was open to adopting a new habit and forgave myself when I failed knowing that I would be brought back by the trigger on a daily basis.
The other key tactic used was to book my next visit with the dental hygienist literally upon walking out of my appointment. I didn’t leave the re-scheduling of the next appointment to chance. This placed an onus on me that I would be going back and there would be inbuilt accountability when she checked on my progress.
Combining the micro strategy of introducing a sequence of small incremental changes on a daily basis with the macro six-monthly strategy of the dental hygienist visit was critical.
And while I don’t floss 365 days a year, I floss more days than I miss.
I still aim to make this a daily habit and I am optimistic in achieving this goal. I have a strategy and I have implemented it.
I’d love to hear what challenge you’ve had in adopting a new success habit on my blog or on social media.
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Cheers, Darren K Bourke