Habits are all around us. They serve as the basis for everything we do. When you stop to think about it, our life is all habits. From getting up in the morning to the way we put on shoes, how we eat, drive to work and even react to someone’s criticism, life is simply a collection of routines. In fact, our habits control more of our behavior than our conscious brain. Unless we are in a truly unique situation, our brain and body relies upon habits and routines to do just about everything we experience.
We all know habits can be both good and bad. They offer structure, comfort and peace of mind. They also allow us to do things easily (e.g. to not have to relearn how to drive every time we want to go somewhere) and give us focus, consistency and the ability to survive in the crazy world around us.
Habits also get us in trouble. Biting our nails, drinking “a few glasses” of wine at night, frantically searching out the coffee shop for the coffee drink you need, staying up too late and overeating are all examples of habits gone bad. Not doing things is also a form of habit, whether it be not exercising, not finishing projects, not brushing your teeth or not telling someone important that you appreciate them.
A great book, The Power of Habit, dives deep into this realm and offers up a fascinating look at habits and the power of cues, routines, rewards and cravings. It’s a great read if you want to learn more about how powerfully we are controlled by habits and how we might be able to shape and mold habits we don’t like and want to change.
Here are a couple thoughts from the book that I found interesting:
Everyone’s habits are unique and acquired differently.
If you are aware of your habits you have the chance to change them. Almost every habit can be changed. Once you understand that habits can change you have the freedom and responsibility to remake them. Once you understand that habits can be rebuilt the power of habit becomes easier to grasp and the only option left is to get to work.
Framework for habit change:
Identify the habit
What’s in the Habit Loop?:
Cue, Routine, Reward, Craving
What starts it, what is the behavior and what is the reward you crave.
Experiment with rewards.
Look to change the reward at the end. Keep testing and gathering information about your routines and rewards. Make it satisfy the craving but be a better option.
Isolate the cue
Finding your cue and the context it exists in is vital. What causes the craving? Place, time, emotional state, people or preceding action.
Have a plan
Formulate a strategy for change. Plan for the cue and deliver a reward that hits that craving.
All our life, so far that has definite form, is but the mass of habits (practical emotional and intellectual) systematically organized for our wheel or woe and bearing us irresistibly towards our destiny, whatever the latter may be.
The Bare 5 Bottom Line on Habits:
1. Life is habits.
2. You can change habits.
3. Identify your habit loops and start experimenting.
4. Don’t eliminate habits, look to shift or change them.
5. Believe in your plan of change.
Thanks for reading, have a great habitual day!