Habit Building Part III: The PARR Method and Progressive Behavior Modification Therapy

P.A.R.R.
  (Plan, Act, Record & Reassess)


By: Martin Grunburg

A simple method to intentionally build good habits.

P.A.R.R. takes advantage of HabitStrength™, a concept proven to reinforce any particular behavior over time. Strengthening and reinforcing the behavior helps it to become a habit. When this is coupled with Habit Alignment Technology™, anyone can achieve their goals more quickly and easily.

P.A.R.R. simply stands for PLAN, ACT, RECORD (which is tracking + notes) and REASSESS.

 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) about P.A.R.R.

How is this any different from the Cue, Routine, Reward concept popularized by The Power of Habit (book)?
PARR distinguishes itself from Cue, Routine, Reward (see video) by directing the user’s attention forward and helping to craft new, favorable habits. Cue, Routine, Reward is terrific for providing information in retrospect but does little to guide the user to develop new, favorable habits. And, unfortunately, Cue, Routine, Reward provides no specific method to develop a habit or even insight into how one might improve any behavior’s HabitStrength™. In fact, according to The Power of Habit, Cue, Routine, Reward is merely a “framework.” (This is covered in a recent post.)

How about the requirement for a “Reward” when I try to develop a habit?

In the above-referenced video, Duhigg states (around 1:40ish), “Then there is the reward, in some respects that is the most important part, because that is why habits exist.”

If you’ve read The Habit Factor, then you know why habits exist and it isn’t because of the reward. In fact, rewards are NICE but not (repeat) NOT a necessary component for habit development. As an example, think Drill Sergeant, or think Mom’s daily morning routine of getting the kids off to school each and every day. Now, you might look for ancillary “rewards” like NOT being yelled at (by the Drill instructor) or not being viewed a “bad” mom (by the other moms). But, please know, that isn’t WHY the habits develop — and certainly not why habits exist.

Also, please know that the referenced “reward” data comes largely from experiments with lab animals. Fortunately, we are humans and not lab animals and have a very unique and special capacity to intentionally align and craft our behaviors to develop constructive, supportive habits. Obviously, all other animals are tied infinitely more directly to their instincts and habits. Just one of the reasons why habit is so incredibly powerful.

From personal experience and from working with others, I know there is no need for me to go eat a chocolate bar or cake or even buy myself a present after I’ve completed a behavior favorably or accomplished a goal. You see, one of the great secrets (if you will) about The Habit Factor and why there has been an explosion of other, new, HABIT tracking apps, is because the simple act of RECORDING (tracking + notes) actually becomes a bit of its own reward. People gain a great deal of satisfaction in checking off the desired behavior and then, of course, seeing their progress and results (its own ancillary reward).

How long does it take to develop a habit?

Perhaps the question most often asked in my presentations of The Habit Factor is, “How long does it take to build a habit?” A fair question with no straightforward answer. There are many myths around the exact number of days, ranging anywhere from 21 to 48 or even 66 (and studies to back up any of those numbers). However, our experience shows that some habits can take up to several months to develop and a key factor in the development of any habit is what we have identified as HabitStrength™. (Note: Not to be confused with Hull’s “Drive Reduction Theory,” although they share a few basic principles — probably for another post/time.)

Can you please share/explain or even provide an example of how Habit Alignment Technology™ and HabitStrength™ work? How they can be applied in the service of goal achievement?

EXAMPLE:
GOAL:  Joe has a goal to lose 35lbs over the next 6 months.

First, by following The Habit Factor’s methodology for goal achievement, Joe recognizes the important distinction between GOALS and HABITS. (Ironically lost among the vast majority of coaches, consultants, and certainly apps and tools made available to help people reach their goals.)

Therefore, Joe decides to identify and develop a few core, related behaviors (habits) instead of working against a check list and one-off tasks. So, for each behavior, Joe will PLAN the behavior’s required minimums and then he will TRACK the behavior to help craft his new habits.

In order to track each new behavior (with the intent of developing a habit), he needs to first identify the Frequency per Week (days of the week), the Minimum Success Criteria (Minimum QTY or Time to perform the behavior), and finally, the Tracking Period (typically 4 weeks), all explained in detail below.

Habit #1: “No Large Meals after 5:30pm” (Qty=0), (M,T,W,Th,F)

Habit #2: “Drink Water” (6 glasses) (M,T,W,Th,F,S, ) 6x / week

Habit #3: “Walking” (2 Miles) (T,Th,S) 3x Week
Habit

Habit #4: “Eat Fruit”  (3x day) (M,T,W,Th,F) 5x Week

With each of the above behaviors, notice there is what we call Minimum Success Criteria, as in “2 Miles” in the case of the Walking behavior or QTY 6 in the case of the Drink Water behavior. The idea behind the Minimum Success Criteria is for Joe to identify how long (time) or how far (distance) the behavior must be done on designated “target” days to be a “success.” And, if completed, he would give himself a successful Checkmark for the behavior.

It’s important to note that if he should only walk 1.5 miles and his Minimum Success Criteria were 2 miles, he would NOT get a successful Checkmark for the effort. Note: This keeps the tracking of his performance to either a YES or a NO — and makes the success of each behavior binary, a critical component to the long-term development of the habit.

Keep in mind, if Joe walks 4 miles, Joe still will receive only a single checkmark and does NOT receive 2 checkmarks. The idea here is to support the long-term development of the behavior to form a habit. In order to do that, it is consistency over a longer period of time vs. a short burst of activity that encourages and supports the development of the habit. Inequity in effort from one day to the next does little to support the long-term development of the habit as compared with consistency over time. Therefore, by keeping the daily tracking to a simple YES or NO (“1” or a “0“) and making the performance measurement binary you have a very clearly defined objective from day to day, which also makes for easier and more elegant tracking. (Further detail and explanation is in the book of course).

The next criteria in habit development is the Frequency per Week. This is fairly straightforward, allowing the user to identify those days he believes he can and will perform the specified behavior. One of the helpful aspects of this system is it allows users to check off any desired behavior on a “non-target” day as well. For instance, if you selected; M, W, F as Target Days and on Wednesday you couldn’t perform the habit for whatever reason, the good news is you could make it up on Thursday.

*Important note* RE: habit development. You do NOT need to perform a behavior every day (successive days) in order to develop a habit. The key is consistency over time— not successive days.

REASSESS!

If there were such a thing as a “most important part” of habit development (for humans vs. rats) it MIGHT be the Reassessment component. This is your unique ability to be aware, to take inventory of existing behaviors and conscientiously direct your energy to forge new habits—to even increase the frequency or minimums thereby strengthening the habit over time.

By pursuing (planning and tracking) any behavior over time and then pressing PAUSE (at the end of four weeks) to assess your progress, you identify if it’s time to “raise the bar” (again frequency or minimums). Only The Habit Factor® offers customizable Tracking Periods allowing you to assess/reassess your progress (your actual behaviors vs. your ideal behaviors). This is how you improve any behavior’s HabitStrength™.

Example: If Joe is at or around 85% or better for each habit over the course of the first four weeks, Joe is then encouraged to raise the bar for the next four weeks — meaning, perhaps, the “Drink Water” habit might increase from 6 glasses to 7 glasses / 6x /week. Or, maybe 6 glasses 7x per week (instead of 6x/week). Again, raising the bar over the prior four-week period. Another example of this would be to walk 3 miles 3x / week (upping the ante from 2miles, 3x per week. It’s the critical component of the Tracking Period that allows the user to reassess and up the ante for the next tracking period.

With each successive Tracking Period*, the behavior’s HabitStrength continues to build until, ultimately, there is no more need to PLAN or TRACK as the intended behavior becomes a HABIT— hence, The Habit Factor.

CONCLUSION


As Joe strengthens these supportive behaviors by successively PLANNING and TRACKING (each 4 weeks), he notices that he’s beginning to realize his over-arching GOAL, and loses 35lbs!

More importantly, Joe develops the healthy and supportive habits, such as walking, drinking water, eating better and smaller meals at better times, etc., all which will help him to maintain his ideal weight, and preventing the classic yo-yo dieting and weight gain issues most dieters experience. So, by focusing on developing the supportive habits, ultimately The Habit Factor takes over!

 

 

 

 

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