Throw away your old ideas about how to create habits…
Most of the stuff the gurus are teaching is crap anyways.
In this post, we’re gonna give you the keys to the kingdom.
You’re going to get our 4-step system you can use to create ANY new positive ritual in your life.
If you’re not sure what a “ritual” is… here’s a quick reminder:
Rituals are deliberate, precise behaviors that help you get what you want.
They can be simple behaviors that are easy to install. And they can take as little as 1 minute to do.
Or they can be complex, multi-layered behaviors that are difficult to create. Some rituals take a whole day to do.
For more examples, make sure you check out my previous post about positive rituals.
Alright, so let’s get to the nitty gritty…
The PEAK Method is a system for creating lasting, positive change
Simply put, the PEAK Method is a 4-step system you can use to create ANY new positive ritual.
This framework is based on behavioral psychology.
It helps your Rider guide your naughty, disobedient Elephant through the small steps needed to make a big change… so the change sticks long-term.
As you’ll see in a second, it’s a very flexible method. You can use this method for rituals both big and small.
If you have a team, you can use the PEAK Method as a framework for coaching employees who are underperforming...
By helping them identify non-productive habits they have, and replacing them with new positive rituals.
You can also use this method to create team rituals to reach higher of performance.
The key is to understand the PRINCIPLES behind the steps... the reason why each step is crucial.
Once you understand each step in the process, you’ll have a powerful method for making new habits.
The purpose of this post is to give you an overview of the process.
In upcoming posts, we’ll break down each step in detail and give you more examples of how to apply them to your life.
Why It’s Called the P.E.A.K. Method
We call it the PEAK Method for two reasons…
The first reason is because it’s a reminder that the purpose of rituals is to help you become a peak performer.
The second reason is because it’s a useful acronym to help you remember the steps.
Here are the steps broken out:
Before we go into the steps, you need to understand something about changing behavior...
The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change:
Don’t rely on willpower to create new habits. It should not be part of your plan at all.
Willpower is a fickle resource. It’s easily depleted and not always available to you.
When it comes to creating new habits...
Your environment is FAR MORE IMPORTANT than using willpower.
In this post, we’ll give you some examples of how to mold your environment.
Alright, let’s dive into the steps...
Step 1: Identify the Pillar Ritual
The P in PEAK stands for Pillar Ritual.
The basic idea of this step is to identify the ONE SINGLE ritual that will give you the biggest benefit.
The biggest mistake people make with rituals is they try to make changes that are way too big.
They think, “I want to lose 40 pounds. I have to exercise every single day, change my diet and cook every night instead of eating fast food.”
They underestimate the power of simple tweaks and changes to their behavior.
It’s like when you’re throwing rocks into a pond.
When that tiny pebble hits the water, it creates a ripple across the surface of the pond.
In this first step, you’re trying to figure out which pebble to throw…
Which small change will make the biggest difference.
Deciding on which Pillar Ritual you’re going to create is the most important part of the process.
There’s a lot of nuance and subtlety that’s important to understand when you’re picking out your ritual.
So if you’re not clear about which ritual to pick… the next post dives deep on this step.
Here’s a simple “fill in the blanks” statement you can use to identify your Pillar Ritual.
The Ritual Creation Statement:
"If I just did (new positive ritual) instead of (current negative habit), I would (benefits you'll experience from the new ritual)."
Here are a couple of examples:
“If I just went to bed at 10:30 instead of staying up until 11:15 watching TV, I would have the energy and time to go for a run in the morning before work.”
“If I just started my mornings by meditating for 15 minutes instead of jumping right into work or checking social media, I would be calmer, more productive, and happier.”
Step 2: Decide on the Exact Cues to Prompt the New Ritual
The E in PEAK stands for Exact Cues.
It’s step two in the process. And it comes after you’ve decided on the new Pillar Ritual in step one.
So, let us explain what a cue is…
A cue is a reminder to do something! It's anything that prompts you to remember or to do a specific behavior.
Think of a cue like this… “When this thing happens first, then this happens.”
Every habit you do now has a specific cue that prompts you to do it… whether you’re aware of the cue or not.
Here are a couple examples of cues:
“When I get a notification on my phone from Facebook, I open the app and see what’s going on.”
“When my stomach starts to rumble from hunger, I get up and look for a snack.”
There’s always a cue, though sometimes we aren’t aware of it.
We’ll dive into this step in more detail, but for now just remember…
When you're starting out, you MUST have a specific cue or cues in place to remind you to do your ritual.
This step is about deciding two things...
- When EXACTLY am I going to do my new ritual?
- What’s going to remind me or prompt me to do it?
Step 3: Decrease the Activation Energy of the New Ritual
The A in PEAK stands for Activation Energy.
Alright, now you’ve figured out which Pillar Ritual you’re going to create…
And you’ve decided on the specific time and Exact Cues you’re going to use to remind you to do it.
Steps number two and three are all about creating the right environment... so your ritual will stick long-term.
This third step is where the magic happens!
It’s the piece of the puzzle most people are missing when they try to create new habits.
First, let’s define what Activation Energy means:
The term comes from chemistry…
Definition: Activation Energy is the initial amount of energy needed to start a chemical reaction.
In other words, there’s a certain amount of energy or effort you have to spend BEFORE you do anything.
The same is true of any new ritual you’re trying to create.
Do you remember when you were learning to drive for the first time?
In the beginning, it took a lot of focus, effort and energy to learn to drive.
Everything was new and awkward. You had to pay a lot of attention to every little detail…
You looked both ways three times before you slowly pulled into any intersection.
Now, you can drive home from the office on autopilot, in a semi-coma. It requires very little energy for you to drive.
The same rule applies to creating new rituals. At first, your ritual will be unfamiliar and awkward. It requires energy, focus, and attention.
Remember how we said your Elephant is lazy? And that your willpower is a depletable resource?
This is why most habits don't stick! Your Elephant talks you out of the change before it can become a habit...
It convinces you that doing your new ritual is just too hard.
Well, here’s how you can use that fact to your advantage...
Decrease the energy required to do the new ritual...
And increase the energy required to do the old habit!
Here’s the main principle behind this step:
You want to set up your environment to make the new ritual EASY to do…
And you want to set up your environment so the old habit is HARD to do.
Here's an example so you can see this principle in action:
Josh was trying to create a new ritual of writing out a “gratitude list” every morning after he woke up.
But most mornings, he would get on his Ipad or Phone and mindlessly read social media or check his email instead.
So here’s what he did…
He made it easy to write in his gratitude journal!
He put notepads and pens next to every chair he would sit in so they were within reach. That way he didn’t have to go find a notepad and pen each morning.
He also made it hard to do his old negative habit…
He started putting his phone in his car every night before he went to bed.
That way, he would have to do a lot to get his hands on the phone…
He had to put on clothes, get his keys, walk out to his car and get his phone if he wanted to use it. His lazy Elephant didn’t want to do all those steps.
Do you see how powerful this principle is?
Josh was using his Elephant’s laziness as a tool to STOP doing his old, negative habit…
By putting extra steps in the way so it was HARD to get to his phone.
And he removed willpower from the equation by making his new ritual SUPER EASY to do...
He always had a pen and notebook handy, so he couldn’t talk himself out of it.
There are so many creative ways you can apply this principle to your new ritual.
If you want a deep dive with more examples, we break this down in this post.
Alright, let’s get to the final step.
Step 4: Keep Track of Your Progress
The K in PEAK stands for Keep Track.
This step is pretty simple, but so often overlooked.
Here you’re setting up some kind of accountability system to keep you on track.
You MUST measure your progress to see if you’re doing your ritual every day.
If you don’t track your ritual in some way, your chance of getting it to stick decreases significantly.
There are lots of ways you can do this. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Using a simple “Ritual Tracking Sheet” to mark whether you did it each day
Using an app to track your ritual
Having an accountability buddy and doing a 2-minute call each day to see if you did your ritual
It doesn’t matter which system you use. What matters is that you track your ritual!
More on Keeping Track of that in later posts...
Here’s a Quick Summary of the Peak Method
Alright, so that’s the PEAK Method in a nutshell!
Here are the steps broken down again so it’s ultra clear:
P: Figure out which one single Pillar Ritual will give you a chain reaction of what you want
E: Create the Exact Cues around the new ritual to help you remember to do it.
A: Decrease the Activation Energy for your new ritual to make it easy to do (And make your old habit hard to do)
K: Keep track of your progress so you can hold yourself accountable
If you follow those four steps…
You’ll have a powerful framework for creating any new ritual or habit in your life.
Note: This is a series about why change is hard, and how to create new rituals that fuel your success.
Dr. Nita Matthews-Morgan & Josh Matthews-Morgan are the co-founders of Learn Your Brain.
They are a unique mother-son team who specialize in helping entrepreneurs and business owners master their mindset.
They’re the authors of Deliver: How to Perform Your Best When it Counts the Most.