No doubts – habits are a huge part of our life. Though, many of us face an issue: we either overcomplicate things when it’s not necessary or underestimate the importance of keeping track of vital habits and their influence on our life.
Both with good and bad habits, there is usually a circle of actions happening: cue – routine – reward.
First comes a cue. It’s a trigger that tells your rational self to automatically use a specific habit. With a cue in mind, our brain starts to implement a routine, physical, emotional or mental. At last, after performing the routine, you get a reward. It helps you to get a positive impression of that routine that you’ve just performed and makes your brain to remember the pattern of this loop. With the loop ending where it started, you get the sense of craving new experience of routine.
With cues, there are several categories that we can define. Each of them has its own way of notifying your mind that there is an option of following the routine. Scientists define those categories as time, place, other people, emotional state and immediately preceding action.
With this knowledge in mind, we can create a framework of the building and maintaining habits that we want to keep and getting rid of ones that we do not wish to have.
Because the habit loop oversees many of the automatic responses to stimuli, short-circuiting the habit loop can be the means of defeating bad habits. Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, suggests the following framework for reshaping bad habits.
Identify the Routine
Most habits have a routine that’s pretty simple to identify: it’s the behaviour you wish to change. A good example of a routine can be spending your afternoon break to go to a cafe and order a big portion of unbalanced meal and coffee, then scroll for 30 minutes your Instagram feed. From there, you can identify the cue and the reward.
Experiment with Rewards
It’s not always easy to identify the reward for your habit. Yes, a reward for craving certain foods can be simply eating those, but it can be simply substituted by spending quality time with a loved one or getting a boost of energy from other sources.
Experimenting with rewards is the time-consuming part of hacking your habits. Each time you feel the urge to repeat your routine, try adjusting the routine, the reward, or both. Keep track of your changes, and implement A/B testing to figure out what drives your routine.
Isolate the Cue
With the abundance of stimuli, separating a habit’s cue is a difficult statement. As mentioned above, most of the cues fall into one of five categories; to identify what could be triggering your habit, write down answers to the following questions to see what patterns develop when an urge or craving strikes you:
What time is it?
Where are you?
Who else is around?
What’s your emotional state?
What action immediately preceded the urge?
Have a Plan
After analysing all the steps you’ve come to a certain idea what influence your habit. As with examples that I provided, an opportunity to discover true reward will emerge. Thus, you can create a plan for controlling a habit. You will definitely meet some resistance on your way, but after a couple of weeks, you’ll find a better version of yourself – the one who can follow that habit without even thinking. That’s how habits change and become part of you.
With all my love and care,