Habits: They come in all shapes and sizes and make up many of our daily actions without us even realizing the influence they have on our actions. Positive, maybe not so positive, and anywhere in between. Our habits also shape the type of person we are, and the person we strive to be.
So how does one go about changing said habit? Perhaps adding more positive habits, or removing not so positive habits?
It’s important to first understand the four fundamental parts that make up any habit. Habits (both positive or not so positive) are broken down into four different steps: Cue, Craving, Response, and Reward, with these four steps making up the Habit Loop.
The Cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior. This is information that predicts a reward of the behavior. (Ex. You get stuck on a project at work.)
Next is the Craving, which is the motivational force behind every habit. Without some level of motivation, there is not a reason to act. We don’t actually crave the habit itself, but the feeling it provides. (Ex. You feel stuck and want to relieve some frustration.)
Third is the Response, which is the actual habit you perform. This can take form as a thought or an action. (Ex. You pull out your phone and check social media/check messages/email, etc.)
Finally, there is a Reward, which is the end goal of every habit. The purpose of the reward is to satisfy your craving. The Reward also teaches us which actions are worth remembering and repeating, thus cementing some of those habits into our daily patterns. (Ex. You satisfy your craving to relieve frustration. Checking social media/messages/email becomes associated with being stuck on a work project.)
When looking to add a positive habit, we want to make our Cue obvious, make the Craving attractive, make the Response easy, and make the Reward satisfying to best reinforce this habit. Conversely, when trying to break a not so positive habit, we want to make our Cue invisible, make the Craving unattractive, make the Response difficult, and the Reward unsatisfying to best deter this habit.
Judging a habit is subjective to each individual, as they are not inherently “good (positive) or bad (not so positive).” One way to best personally judge a habit for yourself is asking the question, “Does this behavior help me become the type of person I want to be, or does this behavior take me farther away from the type of person I want to be?”
When trying to add a positive habit, one strategy for implementing the above “Habit Loop” is utilizing an implementation intention. An “implementation intention” attaches both a time and location to the behavior you are looking to modify, leaving no question about when you will perform the behavior.
(Ex. I will workout (behavior) for one hour at the 9:30 class (time) at A1 (location).
This gives clarity to the action you are wanting to take, and also decreases the chances of distracting your attention to pull you away from what you are trying to achieve.
A second strategy for implementing the “Habit Loop” is using Habit Stacking. This idea focuses on adding a new habit to an already existing habit that you already do. This allows you to take advantage of the natural momentum that comes from one behavior leading into the next.
(Ex. After I complete my workout at A1, I will do 10 minutes of stretching/mobility work before leaving the gym.)
When looking at our not so positive habits, we can use added steps of “friction” to make them less desirable. Let’s return to the earlier example of checking your phone for social media/messages/email when hitting a stuck point with work. Adding “friction” to this habit could mean leaving your phone in a completely different room at home, or leaving it in the desk of a coworker for an hour or two. When hitting that stuck work point, you would need to take an extra step to retrieve your phone, instead of just powering through your stuck work point and getting it done. Adding the extra step helps to deter the behavior.
This is a very quick introduction on the power of our habits, and I hope it has sparked an interest for you to take a closer look at some of your own daily habits. If they are taking you closer to the person you want to be, I hope you continue to build on them! If some of your habits are inhibiting the person you want to be, I hope you take the time to assess how some “friction” could be added to help deter those behaviors, and take you closer to the person you want to be.