The Trickle-Down Effect Of Your Habits

The Trickle-Down Effect Of Your Habits

The Trickle-Down Effect is the idea that every habit – good or bad – affects every other habit. Patterns get created whether we want to or not. It’s up to us to find them and make them better.

No time? Listen to it instead

Have you ever had a friend who changed one part of their life and became the talk of the town – at least amongst your mutual circles – because of how well they were doing in every other activity of their life? I’m sure you have.

The person who starts lifting weights finds that they sleep on time because the exhaustion. The improved sleep begins to improve their performance on other tasks. It makes them more inviting, and therefore, they start to have better conversations.

You get the idea. This cycle is the Trickle-Down Effect.

In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg coins Keystone Habits.

…small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.

These habits have an unintentional positive or negative consequence in other domains of your life. Keystone Habits almost always lead to a Trickle-Down Effect but so do other habits and parts of your systems.

An example of The Trickle-Down Effect
An example of The Trickle-Down Effect

The Unintended Trickle-Down

In college, I had a habit of taking down a walk in the nearest mall’s promenade. Walking is a perfectly healthy habit. However, the environment can play a huge role in how habits get stacked onto one another.

As I walked around the boulevard, I started stopping by a Starbucks and getting a cup of coffee. I only had to do it once or twice for it to becomes something I did every day.

The daily walk was the first habit that trickled down into me buying an Americano from the nearby Starbucks every day. This, in turn, started to affect my finances.

The last part was something I could only notice when I started tracking my finances. Since I was a little aware of the increasing caffeine consumption, I created a separate category called Coffee.

This awareness came from all the jokes my friends would crack regularly.

Sidenote: You should always listen to your friends’ jokes about any behaviour: good or bad. They are often an indication of where you can improve.

The Solution: Break The Pattern

After a month of tracking, it was evident that Coffee amounted to a significant chunk of my monthly spending even though it didn’t feel like a considerable expense when I was out buying a cup.

Since this new behaviour that was not exactly desirable had started, I decided to keep the good parts and create just enough friction to let the bad ones out.

The solution was not to have the Starbucks app for some time and not have the Starbucks card on me when I was out and about. That was enough friction for me to avoid the cup of coffee.

So, the walks sustained, but the coffee consumption reduced, which in turn, helped for better finances.

Of course, the same thing is true for the positive side of things, but that is something everyone talks about, so I decided to take an example where the trickle-down happened but without me realising it. That’s where the issues start.

That’s what you want to start with when you’re fixing your systems. Look for unintentional trickle-downs. Try keeping the good parts and working your way around the bad ones. Then, build better systems on top of those.

Trickle-Down Effect: Desirable Habits

You can use the Trickle-Down Effect on desirable habits in two main ways.

The first is obvious. Pick up Keystone Habits. Keystone Habits work wonders and are tried and tested. The few examples include eating clean, working out, sleeping on time etc.

These work because by their very nature they tend to affect your physiology which helps you perform better at everything else.

The second is to take a book out of James Clear’s book and making it easy. I stack cleaning the kitchen after I’m done with dinner with brewing green tea. It’s a key part of my nighttime routine.

Trickle-Down Effect: Undesirable Habits

To curb undesirable behaviour, you can follow something from my example above and playbook.

First, find the behaviour that is undesirable. Then, try to measure or account for it. It’s important to actually track that behaviour in some way to realise how undesirable it is, and how it trickles down.

Once that is done, find out the cue that makes it easier, and then, make it difficult by adding friction to the cue.

The Nudge

Your habits will always trickle-down to other parts of your life. The key is to catch the trickle-down and figure out if it is worth keeping or not. Better yet, control it by stacking habits you want to stack together instead of letting the environment do it for you. All habits and activities eventually trickle-down to others.

Original Featured Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash.

Endnote: I recommend this amazingly inspiring article by Beverlye Fead talking about the same idea in her life.

If you liked this post, you’ll like the newsletter which also reminds you of the previous week’s post. Also, if you’re absolutely inclined, consider buying me a coffee to help support this website. Most important of all, please take care of yourself and those around you. These are trying times and I wish you all the health in the world.

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