015 Link Up & Level Up: Quick Start Behavior Change with Tethering

Link Up & Level Up: Quick Start Behavior Change with Tethering

There's something you want to change. There's an area in your life you want to grow in. 

For anything that you desire to change - a habit, an action, a behavior, or even a way of thinking or an emotional response to certain triggers - this one simple step can be incredibly high-yield.

But What About Intentions? What About Motivation?

Intentions are not plans. It's really common for us to hear an energizing and motivating talk and think, "OK, this is it. I'm going to change this thing." But what happens? It fizzles out or fades away. (and some of us... Eh hem, cough, cough... me) start to beat ourselves up about it.

  • We set this intention and while we're motivated, it seems reasonable.
  • While we're motivated, it seems doable.
  • While we're motivated, it seems like we're committed and we're going to actually stick this thing out.

But motivation waxes and wanes.

Intentions are vital. Motivation is vital.

In that moment of intention, in that moment of motivation, when you're actually experiencing a visceral “I'm going to do this,” … THAT is the time to set a plan. THAT is the time to set the next best action.

The Next Best Action

Think about something to tether your new desired behavior to.

A tugboat is tethered to a massive ship to then tug it through more dangerous or crowded waters. Right? It's tying something so that they move together, a tether.

It could be another habit.

It could be a repeated behavior.

It could be a recurring experience.

Why Tether?

  • When you tether two usually disparate things together:
  • It becomes easier to remember, especially if it's something you encounter or do again and again and again. 
  • It reduces cognitive load. (Our brains seek out the least cognitive effort, the least amount of energy to process something.) If we have to manage our intentions, manage our motivation and manage our actions plus all the other things that come with a behavior, we're not going to do it. We're going to fall short. So instead, reduce the cognitive load, reduce all the other things that have to be done before you implement such a behavior.
  • It doesn't rely on motivation as much. (It kinda does early, but eventually, it's closer to automatic)
  • It creates an element of consistency earlier in the process. If we are consistent early, we're less likely to have that negative self-talk and less likely to demotivate ourselves.

What To Link Up

Some examples:

If you want to start to be a little more mindful... well what do you already do daily that takes a short amount of time, but is also uninterrupted?

  • Making your bed
  • Brushing your teeth
  • Drinking your coffee
  • Washing your hands

Fine. Choose one and practice being mindful while doing that thing.

You want to start a gratitude practice? You want to start consistently working out? You want to call your mother more frequently? 


I've tried multiple methods and multiple times to develop a gratitude practice. 

I tried what the gurus said. I read and implemented some of the things I read on trusted social posts. I looked up the research and tried some of the validated methods. But gratitude wasn't as present throughout my day as I wanted it to be. I had to keep experimenting.

I'll tell you what it was for me. Ultimately, it was two things:

  1. Tether it to something I do early, every day
  2. Make it easy

I tried journaling and it wasn't working for me. It took a lot of activation energy. I had to find the journal, I had to pull it out. I had a turn to the page and then I felt like this is going to last, so I have to write all this stuff. In my head, I was self-editing. It was too much energy for me.

Well, I have a treadmill desk that I use while I work each morning. Tether. When I start walking, I type five things that I'm grateful for. Easy. 

I type five things I'm grateful for and pause on each one for 10 seconds. A total of 50 seconds. Now gratitude has become a habit, even long after I've stepped away from the treadmill desk.

Similar example: I tied working out to learning with audiobooks. I LOVE learning. It's rewarding to me. Well, now, I've constructed it so that, I can only listen to audiobooks while I'm working out. If I don't work out, I do not permit myself to keep listening. If I do workout, I am rewarding myself.

Repeated Behaviors, Everyday Objects, & Everyday Experiences

Repeated behaviors aren't necessarily always habits. For example, we open doors, we log into the computer, and we log into meetings. These everyday repeated behaviors can also be things that we tether things to.

Imagine that it is now 3 weeks after your event and people are still raving about it. Not only that, they're describing how it changed their work and their lives.

Make it happen. Book Dr. Tori to speak: https://www.drtori.com/speaker 

If you've heard one of my keynotes or taken my 7 Simple Rules of Influence course, then you've heard how I use doorknobs. The act of walking through a door is a behavior we do all the time. But I've used the everyday object of a doorknob as a thing to tether a behavior to.

When I grab a door knob, I "manage my state" (Simple Rule #1).

There's someone on the other side of this door. I need to serve them - whether it's my family, when I'm coming home from work, whether it's a meeting that I'm walking into, whether it's a lecture hall or a conference that I'm about to speak in, or a one-on-one consult or coaching. When I grab that doorknob, I think I have to serve the person on the other side of that door. Over time, it has become completely automatic to get into the optimum state for whoever/whatever is on the other side of that door.

Take a repeated behavior and just tie it to a habit that I want. You could do this with driving. You can do this with putting on shoes. You can do this with logging into a computer. You can do this clicking "Join Meeting." You can do this with anything that any repeated behavior that you have to do after you finish in the bathroom or before you eat your food. You can tie it to those behaviors. Another thing you can tie things to is a real-world object, which I alluded to with doorknobs. You can pick any real-world object that can be picking up a pen, grabbing your phone. You can just tie a behavior to a real-world object.

You can also tie it to a real-world experience, for example. When I experience negative gossip, right? I just really can't stand being around people who are constantly negative gossip. Like, it really bugs me. I struggled with, How do I get out of that conversation? Do I just abruptly remind them? "Hey, let's not talk about them behind their back" Sometimes that's awkward. Sometimes it could be potentially harmful, say, in the workplace with somebody senior to you or you have to interact with them later. It can be awkward. I struggled with that for a while.

But here's what I did. Essentially, I started to make excuses for other people… the moment I hear something negative, I would practice the act of making excuses for someone basically assuming the best, thinking about something that they do well or something that is good about them.

Not All Habits Are Behaviors

Why do I make the distinction between habit change and behavior change? Because not all habits are behaviors. Some habits are emotional responses or triggers. My emotional response to hearing that a specific person's name, that is often called a triggered response. But that's essentially a habit. And you can break that habit and insert a new one. And one of the best ways is with tethering

Thoughts can be habits, too. Somebody brings up a topic or a certain person walks in a room and you have certain thoughts. Those thoughts are habits - those immediate early thoughts.

You can change those thought patterns. For me, it was negative self-talk. Even if I crushed it, if one person felt slighted or was not enamored by something I did... 99 people loved it, 1 dude was less-than-enthused... my pattern was to think (& subsequently viscerally feel) like I was not good enough. I should've done better.

If you want to change your behavior habits, if you want to change your thought habits, if you want to change your emotional habits, then tie them to other things, tie them to other habits, tie them to other actions, tie them to everyday objects.

Keep this in mind this is a small action that can yield massive change in your life. So just tie these things together. It's super high yield.

If you do want to learn how to change everything in a single, powerful moment, here's a free (& quick) micro-course: https://www.drtori.com/offers/ukqSTL77 

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[ If you’re a busy professional who wants to have incredible success at work and at home (without neglecting those who matter most), then check out The Influence Playbook at https://www.influenceplaybookmonthly.com ]


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