by Kusha Karvandi
In the personal finance world there is a very common phenomenon called “lifestyle creep.” Author James Clear says this refers to our tendency to purchase nicer, better and bigger things as our income increases.
Here is an example to illustrate what I am talking about. You get that hard earned promotion at work, so your income is increased by $10,000 per year. Instead of continuing to live as normal and saving that extra money, it is more likely that you will buy designer clothes, stay at nicer hotels or upgrade to a larger TV. Your regular lifestyle will slowly start to creep up, and items that once appeared to be a luxury to you will gradually turn into necessities. Things that used to be out of your reach will turn into your new normal.
One of the most difficult things to do in both life and business is to change human behavior. However, lifestyle creep does very reliably describe how over the long-term human behavior changes.
What if we could adapt this concept and use it in other parts of our lives?
How To Change Your Normal
Major goals occur naturally as a side effect whenever we have what it takes to achieve them. When there is an increase in our purchasing power, the level of our purchases tends to also increase. That is lifestyle creep.
So what if we could get side effects that were similar to what takes place in other parts of our life?
What if we could have trust in the fact that getting better grades or earning more money or gaining more muscle would occur as a natural side effect of making improvements to our regular routines? So in other words, as we improved our regular habits, that our results would improve as well.
The idea that you could hack your habits by making small changes until the results and behaviors that you would like to have, and that at one time were out of reach, become your new normal is what I like to refer to as “habit creep.”
If you purchase more items than can be sustained by your bank account, that isn’t lifestyle creep. It is simply debt.
Also, if you take on several new behaviors that you are unable to sustain, that is not habit creep. So the key here is to avoid attempting to grow too fast. The way lifestyle creep occurs is very slowly, to the point that it is practically imperceptible. That is how habit creep needs to happen as well. The goal is to give your behaviors a small nudge along the way.
The best things you can do to change your long-term behavior and make improvements to your performance is to improve your performance just a little bit every day and make changes to your environment that will remove barriers and distractions.
Here are a few thoughts on these two things:
Increasing Your Performance
We all have a “regular way” that we live. For example, your current physical fitness level usually reflects the amount of activity that you get on a regular day. So say that your standard for a typical day involves you walking 8,000 steps. If you’d like to improve your fitness level, the standard approach would have you exercising more or training to run in a race. However, if you are using the habit creep approach, you would add just a very small amount to what your current standard behavior is. So instead of walking 8,000 steps per day, you would walk 8,100 steps. After a period of time, you would walk 8,200 steps, etc.
This type of logic can be applied to almost any aspect of your life. You have a regular number of books you read every month, a regular number of thank you notes written every year, a regular number of sales calls made every day at work. In order to become more intelligent, more grateful, more successful, you can hack your habits by using this concept of habit creep and begin to slowly make improvements in your life by just improving things slightly that you do already in your regular day.
Changing Your Environment
Every day there are all kinds of things that we do in response to our surrounding environment. We turn the TV on automatically because when we sit down on the couch it’s the very first thing we see. When somebody sends a text, we automatically pick up our phone. We eat a cookie because it is sitting right on the counter. If you can make small changes to your environment (put your TV inside of the cabinet, leave your phone in a different room while you are working, hide your cookies inside the pantry), then your actions and habits will also change. Just think if each week you made one positive change to your environment. Think about where your habit creep could be in one year.
Change Your Normal
Those results that you are able to achieve on your best day usually are a reflection of the way you spend your regular day.
Everybody gets so obsessed with making every day their best – making more sales than anyone else in the department, running their all-time fastest race, getting the best score on a test.
Forget about all of that. Just work on improving your regular day. If you do that, the results will come. We make long-term changes naturally by slightly and slowly adjusting our regular everyday behaviors and habits.