Meet the 4 day win, a technique devised by the inimitable Martha Beck. It is an utterly fantastic way to work towards a goal or set up a habit that feels daunting. It’s ideally suited to whatever you are currently beating yourself up for not doing. I should know, since I started one today! I’ve been dealing with a literal pain in my neck, and I know that stretching and exercise will help. But do you think I’ve started doing that? Nope. So I am turning to the 4 day win!
The very first step is to identify what you want to work on. I find this process especially well suited to adopting a new habit, but it can also be used to work towards a goal. In my case, I want to start stretching so that my neck will stop hurting. I think that this is ideally suited to the 4 day win.
The next step is to identify a tiny action that you can take for the next four days, which will bring you closer to your goal. In my case, the final goal is to do each of seven exercises twice a day. This is daunting, which is why I haven’t done any stretching until now. The obvious smallest step is to start doing one of the exercises, once a day. I can tell that this is the right size step because it sounds ridiculously easy, yet I’m not currently doing it. You want to be sure to be taking turtle steps here – you know how slow and steady wins the race? That’s us. If you take a tiny, easy action, eventually it adds up. But if you remain paralyzed because you think that you need to take larger steps then you’ll never reach your goal.
The third step is to identify a small reward. It is critical to the success of the 4 day win strategy that the action be linked to a reward. It doesn’t have to be huge, just something pleasant. Since I will be starting by doing my stretches in the morning, I think it’s best if the reward is something that I can have or do right away. I’ve decided to reward myself after I stretch by putting on perfume. It is quick and inexpensive (since I already own the perfume), yet makes me very happy. Conversely, no stretching means no perfume that day. Since I do wear it intermittently, I will have to be careful to remember not to put any on if I forget to stretch. You can’t reward yourself if you haven’t actually performed the action you decided on.
The fourth step, not surprisingly, is to actually perform whatever action you have chosen. You must do it every day for four days, and on day four you get a slightly larger reward. I will select those as they come along.
Once you have completed the first 4 days, you repeat the process with a slightly larger action over the next 4 days. In this way you can build your way up to any new habit!