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  • Writer's pictureLiz Tracy

When Distractions Become Habits

Have distractions become habits for you?

To be sure, some behaviors are good, and some are, well, let’s just say not so good. If you’re anything like the great leaders I work with, some of these good habits may be the behaviors you stopped doing. In today’s business world, this can make a big difference in your success.

In his recent book, Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2020) behavior scientist BJ Fogg, PhD, illustrates how behavior happens when motivation, ability, and prompt converge at the same moment. Fogg illustrates this in the Fogg Behavior Model, whereby motivation is your desire to do the behavior. Ability is your capacity to do the behavior. Prompt is your cue to do the behavior.

You see, the more motivated you are to do a behavior, the more likely you are to do the behavior. When motivation is high, people not only take action when prompted, they can also do difficult things. We’ve seen this happen over and over again this year. People learning new habits to protect themselves, and others. Wearing a mask in public places. Frequently and thoroughly washing their hands.

But, when a task is more difficult to complete—when a new behavior is more challenging to do—the less likely we are to do it. Keeping space between yourself and another person is not always easy when they are not also motivated to do the same.

Motivation and ability work together. If you lack ability, you need greater motivation. Likewise, if you lack motivation, you need greater ability. They are continuous variables, triggered by a prompt. You see, no behavior happens without a prompt. This is great news when you want to disrupt, or change, a behavior. Removing a prompt is sometimes the best course to stop a bad habit.

A Simple Model to Create New Habits

To create a new habit, work through the model, or formula:


1. Is there a prompt for the desired behavior?

2. Is there ability to complete the desired behavior?

3. Is there motivation to complete the desired behavior?

As any great leader or manager can attest, all of these questions need to be answered as it relates to the individual completing the behavior.

What do you think?

  • Have distractions become habits for you?

  • What action are you taking to counter these habits?

  • Where do you need a different prompt?

  • Where do you need more motivation?

I’d love to hear from you! You can reach me at or learn more about my coaching practice at and on LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook.

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