I developed the Applause Technique as a gift to my wife. I knew that one of the traditional concerns of many women is that men leave the toilet seat up. Ashara wasn’t complaining about this habit of mine any more, but I knew that it had once been a concern.
At the very least, by changing this habit, I’ve at long last given her something about me to brag about.
I’m not saying that we had never discussed this issue previously. There was, for instance, the night when Ashara sleep-walked to the bathroom and then took an unexpected butt-bath. We certainly discussed this issue on that and other nights.
And I tried. But my awareness of the habit only lasted for a short intervals before I forgot about it again. Sometimes, I was resistant. I used to grumble—sometimes to myself, “Why shouldn’t she be required to put the toilet seat up after using it?”
In February 2015 (I think), while I was out walking, I made the decision to handle this issue once and for all, and I furthermore invented the Applause Technique to manage the resistance that I knew that I had.
When I came home, I lowered the seat after using the toilet, and I immediately used the Applause Technique as it is described here. It was a funny technique, and it made me smile. I made a game of it and played it for all it was worth.
The very next time I used the restroom, I remembered automatically to lower the seat, and I repeated the Applause Technique a second time. I tried to keep it fun by introducing humorous bits—like imagining aliens flying their UFOs in celebratory loops over the top of the crowds—or like imagining that toilets all over the world were flapping their lids to applaud me.
The change in my habits was immediate and permanent. I didn’t maintain my new habits perfectly at first, and I still make an occasional mistake, but it’s mostly been successful. Furthermore, I’ve learned to use the Applause Technique in a lot of different areas as well.
I can’t promise that the Applause Technique will always work immediately and permanently for all new habits—for instance, I’ve never heard of a woman using this technique to teach herself to always leave the toilet seat up for her man. Can you imagine the fights that would cause?
He: “Honey, I love you, so I’ve developed the habit of always leaving the toilet seat down for you.”
She: “Well, stop it! I’m trying to always leave it up for you!”
One thing I can tell you is that every time I’ve used this method, it has accelerated the learning curve so extremely that it became like screeching around a sharp learning corner. With this technique, you have to be careful about whiplash.
The only reason I can think of that it might not work for you would be if you fail to repeat it several times at the beginning and periodically later on. If you use the Applause Technique consistently at the start, this technique will literally give you a superpower.
Of course, if you have trouble using the technique consistently, then you’ll need to develop the habit of being consistent. To do that, applaud your consistency consistently.
And if that’s difficult, the simple cure is to consistently applaud your consistency in applauding your consistency in applauding consistency consistently. Got that?
Another reason you might find this to be a difficult technique to use is that it flies in the face of how many of us were raised. Like many parents, mine did not want to spoil me, so they did nothing like this—preferring to rely on anger, punishment, and guilt. And as psychologists have discovered, anger, punishment, and guilt are extremely effective in damaging relationships, generating rebellion, and eroding mental health.
In other words, producing normal people like you or me.
The Applause Technique gives us the superpower of effectively changing our habits without producing any damage. Here’s how you do it:
Step 1: Think about a time when you succeeded in actually doing the thing that you want to make into a habit. Here are some ideas. You only need one of them to start—so choose your most important one.
- When was a specific time when you really got into physical exercise in an effective way?
- When did you organize a box or a file folder and feel good about it?
- When did you really choose an extremely healthy meal?
- If you have no such successes, schedule a time to do the physical exercise, organize the file folder, or eat a healthy meal. Then do the Applause Technique after you’re done.
- Also, to learn this technique, don’t choose something you’re emotionally conflicted about. If you’re traumatized by your Income Tax forms, don’t use your Income Tax for your first new habit.
Step 2: Start by imagining that you are watching yourself succeed.
- If you’re alone, applaud yourself physically. In other words, clap your hands.
- If you’re not alone, imagine yourself applauding yourself.
- Maintain this applause for about five seconds—which may feel like a long time. Do it anyway.
- If this step seems just too weird to you, skip it and go on to step 3.
Step 3: Think about one person whose opinions matter to you. Imagine that this person is at the gym, in your office, or in the restaurant with you. (Or wherever you want the new habit to manifest first.)
Now imagine that this person begins to applaud you, too, both by clapping and by saying nice things.
- If you started the applause in step 2, imagine that both you and this friend are applauding you together.
- If you didn’t start the applause in step 2, go back and do so, now. It’s not really that weird to like yourself.
- For the first few steps, it’s best to choose people who are connected with the new habit you’re going to build—for instance, choose a trainer or athletic friend if your new habit involves exercise.
- Say their names to yourself to make the experience more vivid.
- It’s okay if it feels silly. No one else is watching your thoughts. Besides, the more fun, the better.
- Maintain the applause from Step 3 for no less than five more seconds. This is important.
Step 4: Think of a second person whose opinions matter to you. Say that person’s name and imagine that the first two people you imagined both join you in applauding your success at one time.
- They also comment briefly on what they’re applauding you for.
- Step 4 also lasts for five seconds.
Step 5: Imagine that two more friends observe you doing this great new habit you want to establish. As soon as they see you do it, imagine that they start saying encouraging things to you and applauding.
- Don’t rush on to the next step. Enjoy their applause for at least five seconds—longer if possible.
- Say both of their names to yourself.
Step 6: Imagine that two or three other friends are in the restaurant, gym, or office, and imagine that they also overhear this interaction. Imagine that they come over and join in the applause.
- Once again, make it vivid and real by saying some of their names and by imagining the applause going on for five seconds or more. Every step needs to be around five seconds long.
- Think back regularly to the habit that you’re being applauded for to link it effectively to the applause. One way to do this is to imagine different people explaining why their applauding.
Step 7: Imagine some additional bystanders also join in for several seconds.
- You might imagine this group to be eight or ten people in size.
- Say the number of people to keep your image vivid in your mind.
Step 8: Imagine a whole room of people joining in for a few seconds.
- After each expansion of the crowd, make sure that they’re applauding you for the original thing.
- You can also add attractive admirers that express their applause sensually. But don’t get carried away and eliminate the crowds. (That would be a different technique.)
- Each time, say the approximate number of people to keep your image vivid in your mind.
Step 9: Continue making the audience larger and larger, always estimating the crowd size to help keep you focused.
- Put the audience into a small auditorium.
- Then a larger auditorium.
- Then a stadium.
- Then a massive crowd that extends as far as the eye can see.
- Since this is a silly exercise anyway, feel free to add applause from aliens swooping around in their UFOs, angels, trees and animals, or all of the cells in your body.
- Always maintain each level of applause for several seconds.
Step 10: The most important aspect of this technique is that the total duration of applause from all of the different levels when combined together should be at least 30 to 60 seconds in length.
- The purpose is to change your brain chemistry, and for that to happen, you have to maintain the applause for a significant period of time.
- The reward of wasting 30 to 60 seconds in this manner is mastery over your habits. It’s a worthy trade.
- If you think that’s too long, get over yourself.
Step 11: (Optional) Once you’ve produced a pandemonium of applause for your original habit, you might want to have the announcer describe other potential new habits that you’ve experimented with. In other words, keep the applause going at this high pitch, but bring in new reasons for the applause.
Step 12: Immediately after finishing, plan a time when you’re going to repeat this process in your mind, at the very least. As soon as it’s convenient, set up an appointment on your calendar, set an alarm, or hire someone to tattoo it on your hand—whatever takes to make sure you repeat the applause.
- When the habit is firmly established, you can stop doing step 12. Unless it’s too much fun and you don’t want to.
- For most habits, this won’t take many repetitions.
As strange as this technique might sound, it actually works. The reason it does so is that it keeps you focused on success for a significant period of time, which by itself will change your brain chemistry.
In addition, it vividly invokes positive feedback for changing your habits, and it completely interferes with the tendency to put yourself down for failure and sloth. Thus, it builds your self-esteem.
At the beginning, this effect is only limited by your lack of palm calluses.
(Possibly an excerpt from a potential book that may eventually be called “Change Your Habits the Esoteric Way.
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(I write humorous blogs to call attention to our weekly Joyful Wisdom Groups on Skype. We become family to one another through meditation, deep sharing about weekly exercises, and heart-based activities. These small groups are free, but most people who experience them want to support our work with donations.)