James Pawelski, Philosopher and Positive Psychologist, has put an acronym to William James‘ four steps to creating a habit. I mentioned this in passing before, and now I’ll introduce you to the handy acronym: SNAP

1) S: Start Strong – Launch the new habit decisively.
2) N: No exceptions – Never make an exception to the new habit.
3) A: Act when promted – Act “on every emotional prompting,” i.e. whenever you want to act on the new habit, be sure to do so!
4) P: Practice! – Do it every day. Exercise the new habit every day.

At the same time, I’ll be posting later about Changing for Good, which is a super book about the psychology of changing a habit. And the main point of that book is that you can’t take a step you’re not ready for. And James and James’ SNAP training is for the action phase of taking on a new habit or breaking an old one. There are several stages before the action phase which involve getting ready to and convincing yourself that you need to create the new habit.

But, surely if you are in the action phase, if you are ready to change something, then ask yourself every day, am I doing it? Am I doing SNAP? These are four fun questions just in order to have a structure. Enjoy!

Update: James Pawelski reminds me that the P in SNAP refers to not only daily practice of the particular habit, but more importantly to the general practice of using the will. It is focus, discipline, self-regulation. William James believed that “we need to do something strenuous every once in a while – even if it’s not directly related to the habit we are trying to create. This, he believes, will keep our wills strong and in good shape,” says James Pawelski.


One Comment

  1. Posted Monday October 16, 2006 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Great post – thanks so much!

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] senia.com 1) S: Start Strong – Launch the new habit decisively. 2) N: No exceptions – Never make an exception to the new habit. 3) A: Act when promted – Act “on every emotional prompting,” i.e. whenever you want to act on the new habit, be sure to do so! 4) P: Practice! – Do it every day. Exercise the new habit every day. […]

  2. By senia.com » on Saturday July 29, 2006 at 4:20 pm

    […] […]

  3. […] there are GOOD constraints which are forever constraints, which is very useful in certain cases (no alcohol for an alcoholic, no processed sugar for someone with particular health issues).  In fact, William James who argued for “no exception” to the new habit and Samuel Johnson who said, “Abstinence is as easy to me as temperance would be difficult” both agree that those constraints which are firm and permanent are better.  That is for you to decide.  […]