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Identifying Your Supportive and Unsupportive Habits Triggers

In this post, we are going to discuss your habit triggers. 

Triggers – from an objective point of view – are some amazingly interesting psychological elements. Triggers can be:

  • thoughts
  • sounds (a song, birds chirping, etc.)
  • words
  • events

About any type of external or internal stimuli  can be a trigger for a habit – something that happened in our lives and evoke an emotion, an action, a thought, or a behavior.

The Good News: these triggers can launch a wanted habit or an unwanted habit; and once you identify these triggers, you can take action and use these triggers to tap into your wanted habits more and eliminate some of your unwanted habits.

You have experienced triggers throughout most of your life and you may not even have realized it. For example, when a certain song comes on the radio it may evoke a very specific memory about a former romantic relationship. Certain smells may evoke a very specific memory from the past. Certain words might trigger strong desires towards certain actions.

Your effective and ineffective habits work on these very same triggers. For example, someone who is trying to quit smoking often has to deal with the physiological trigger of the smell of cigarette smoke. This can create an almost irresistible urge to smoke again.

Identify Supportive & Unsupportive Triggers

You have two tasks when it comes to cultivating habits to help you reach your goals. 

  1. First of all, you need to realize that ineffective habits shouldn’t be attempted to be eliminated instantly, but rather replaced gradually with a wanted habit. We discussed this more in-depth in a previous post, How to Eliminate Ineffective Habits (opens in new window)
  2. Second, you need to identify ineffective triggers and create effective ones so that you can have an action plan for disarming the ineffective ones and triggering the power habits you want to adopt.

Implementing Triggers for Positive Habits

If you want to adopt new habits in your life that support your goals, it’ll be exponentially easier to succeed if you implement triggers associated with the new habit. An effective trigger would be an stimuli that’ll prompt positive actions – (almost) automatically trigger the behaviors you want to implement as part of your new power-habit.

Examples of Effective Habits Triggers

Trigger Technique One: Scheduling

This is the simplest and most popular way to trigger a positive action. Just about everyone has some kind of schedule that they have to follow, or decide to follow, and scheduling can be a great reminder that you need to take any action you’d like.

Simply enter the wanted action as a recurring item in your calendar, and commit to it!

Potential shortcoming of this approach: Not everyone uses a calendar, and not everyone who uses a calendar sticks to the items they enter into it.  If that describes you, a) you can commit that from now on you’ll honor the items you add to your calendar; OR b) if living by following a calendar seems to rigid for you, try one of the other Habit Triger approaches (below and in the next post, 3 More Effective Habit Triggers)

Trigger Technique Two: The Pre-Action State

This is the state that you are in before you actually take the action – whether wanted or unwanted habit. One example is the going to bed and thinking about the health of your teeth because you didn’t brush. Another example might be when you start thinking about what fast food restaurant sounds good today, you can step in actually brush your teeth, or replace that fast food thought with something healthier.


When it comes to unwanted triggers, just be aware of patterns that you know lead to bad habits around certain times of the day. For example, if you find yourself binge eating during evening TV watching, you can take steps to replace that ice cream or platter of chicken wings with something healthier or gradually reduce your eating during TV watching and eliminating it. You’ll find yourself healthier, with more energy in the long-run and you’ll have better sleep quality (if you tend to binge-eat at night)

Keep in mind that the pre-action state doesn’t just apply to thoughts – it can also apply to emotions. It is well-known that when you are in a certain emotional state, you are prone to triggering actions, both good and bad. You can see this in many addictions, where depression, euphoria, or anger may trigger an addiction response, such as reaching for the bottle, cigarette, drugs, etc.

In the next post we’ll explore three more powerful Habit Triggers.



Vertis Williams is a Positive Habits Life Coach and a Mindfulness Trainer. He is a regular presenter at employee and team-development events. Contact him to request more info on his Workshops or on his Coaching Services! Click HERE to Request a Complimentary Habit Coaching Session!


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