Versions of the sign pictured above were in almost every bathroom in Peru. They were posted to remind tourists to put their toilet paper into the garbage beside the toilet, and not in the toilet. Peruvian plumbing was/is not made to handle anything other than human waste. Small bits of fragile tissue could cause huge issues close to the source and farther down the line.
It was intriguing where these signs were posted: by the toilet paper, across from the toilet so you’d see it when sitting on the toilet, by the light switch and by the sink.
How helpful the latter two were, I’m not sure. Even when there was one by the holder, it frustrated me how often habit would kick in and in the few seconds between removing the paper from the roll and disposing of it, I’d forget, and not put it in the garbage that was always conveniently located right beside the toilet and served as a secondary reminder.
Having reminders or triggers, are they are often now called, will do no good if they don’t support behaviour change.
A year from now you will wish you had started today.” -Karen Lamb
In a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.” -Warren Buffett
Each person’s task in life is to become an increasingly better person.” -Leo Tolstoy
“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” –Jim Rohn
(soooo many great quotes could go here)
1. There are two ways to determine what behaviour change should be tackled – bottom up or top down.
In bottom up, you start with making a small change that you hope will lead to bigger change. For example, deciding to walk to the mail box or around the block every day immediately after the evening meal. The plan might be to increase the walk over time, or that might be the entire goal – a short walk.
The top down takes a bit more planning but could have a bigger impact*. In this scenario,the bigger goal is picked (in this example, better health) and then actions to support that goal are listed. The one action that is chosen is the smallest action that has the biggest impact. For example, you and another person go for a walk after the evening meal and share everything you have eaten that day. In this method, both eating and activity should be altered.
2. There are many ways to enforce/encourage a change.
There could be triggers/reminders, such as putting your walking shoes/runners on the spot on the chesterfield where you usually sit after eating (make a change in the environment. Adding a trigger).
It could be an alarm that is set on your phone to remind you if, for example, you spend too much time at your desk, to get up, walk around, stretch a bit, and grab a drink of water (this one is self supporting. If you drink water every time you get up, you’ll need to get up more frequently to use the washroom, which will also serve as a trigger for you to have another glass of water).
You might want to keep things simple. One example would be to set alarms on your phone, maybe three times a day, to remind you to do a body scan** and to check in with your feelings. Then take three deep breaths and continue with your day. Less than a minute and you are done.
It could be a post-it note on your dashboard to remind you to list three new things you are grateful for that day whenever you hit a red light.
3. Put it on your calendar to reassess after a few days or a week, or whatever timeline makes sense to you. Is your trigger a good one or is it like the sign beside the light switch or the sink, as mentioned in the intro?
4. Would it reinforce the wanted behaviour change to have a target date or a reward?
5. Would it be helpful to have an accountability partner?
6. This can be applied to yourself or helping someone else make a behaviour change. In either case, remember my two rules of parenting/dog training:
1. Always use positive reinforcement, and
2. Be consistent.
7. If you are someone who likes movement and has trouble focusing, perhaps changing your environment would help. Try one of our Movement Cushions. Available in blue and black.
We all have the time to make small changes to take us closer to the person we were meant to be. As l'Oréal would say, “You’re worth it."
Providing calmness & comfort, learning & laughter,
P.S. South American countries aren’t the only place where people are asked not to put toilet paper into the toilet.
*Don’t be fooled into thinking bigger impact = better. Ongoing behaviour change is more important then intention. Better a small change than a grand intention.
** Scan the body head to toe or toes to head, focusing on tension, pain, health.