Forming habits by taking advantage of the consistency and commitment biases

September 16, 2021

2 min read

Forming Habits

There's lots of research and studies that show creating a habit can take anywhere between 21 days to 8 months. I'm too lazy to cite them, you can find them yourselves (if you find studies that prove the counterpoint, please share!).

For the past couple of years, I've been working on a few daily habits:

  1. Adding and reviewing my Anki cards
  2. Practicing Chinese
  3. Walking 11,000 steps
  4. Intermittent fasting
  5. Lifting weights

Most habit trackers are made for you to check off the habit after you've completed it. This means, unless you have the habit scheduled, you are unlikely to do it. I've found a way to use the consistency and commitment biases to help me do my daily habits.

The Consistency Bias

Humans have a bias to staying consistent. If you've told someone or even yourself you'll do something, the odds of you doing it is a lot higher if you hadn't told it. Even when it acts against our best interest, we tend to be consistent with our prior commitments, ideas, thoughts, words, and actions.

There are many reasons for this: a big one for me is to appear "right". If I tell someone I'm going to do something, otherwise, I'll be in an awkward situation. Being or appearing "right" is better than appearing "wrong".

The Commitment Bias

The commitment bias is very similar to the consistency bias. The difference is that the commitment bias is a subset of the consistency bias. The commitment bias applies to things you've committed to while the consistency bias applies to your beliefs, ideas, and actions.

How to take advantage of the biases for your habits

Okay so how do we use the consistency and commitment bias to form habits?

Instead of checking off a habit after you've completed it, you should check off the habit at the start of the day before you've completed it.

By doing this, you're committing yourself to do the habit. If you don't do the habit by the end of the day, you will have to face yourself being inconsistent by un-checking the completed habit.