Changing a bad habit is the cornerstone of self improvement, but most people find it incredibly difficult to do because they’ve been told to focus on the wrong things. In this video I’ll break down the three parts of a habit according to science, show you how to break a bad habit and close with tips on keeping bad habits from coming back.
I recently read the power of habit by Charles Duhigg and I wanted to share a couple lessons I learned about habit formation, how to break bad habits, and how to keep them from coming back once and for all.
Every habit can be broken down into a three step process of cue, routine and reward. The cue is essentially a trigger that sends your brain into autopilot, this cue can be anything from a time of day to a location, to someone around you or maybe even a behavioral pattern. The second part of the habit loop is the “routine,”. And the last stage is the “reward,”. The reward stage is when your brain determines whether or not the routine is worthy of remember or not. If the routine has a strong cue and reward the routine becomes a habit.
So if that was hard to follow Let me paint a real word example of this. Let’s say you have a meeting every day around 10am where an alarm goes off on your phone. This is your Cue. After the meeting is over you travel to the break room to buy and eat a cookie. This is your routine, but the reward may not necisarily be obvious at first. The reward is something that the routine accomplishes. Maybe the cookie satisfies your hunger, maybe it satisfies being low on energy, or gives you an opportunity to talk to a friend.
This habit starts out as a conscious and deliberate activity, but overtime the process becomes more and more automatic largely for the sake of energy efficiency, The author of the power of habit says that The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges. In the case of the 10am meeting the cue of your alarm reminder going off would immediately trigger your craving. No wonder it’s so hard to break bad habits.
Over the years we’ve been told by experts that to break a bad habit we need to fix the routine. people would instruct you to Stop eating that cookie every day, but in fact it’s the cue and the reward in the habit loop that influence the habit itself. If you identify and focus on your cues and rewards you can insert a new routine and eliminate the craving altogether.
to eliminate a bad habit is to Identify the cue, routine, and reward. The cue might be fairly obvious if your looking for it but remember it could be be anything from a time of day to a location, to someone around you or maybe even a specific behavioral pattern. The routine will be obvious. Eating the cookie, but the reward might take a little critical thinking. You want to try and determine if eating the cookie satisfying hunger, gives you a pick-me-up from being tired, or something else.
insert a new routine to eliminate the craving altogether. Once you’ve successfully identified the elements of your habit loop you can insert a new routine to eliminate the craving altogether. If you identified your reward as satisfying hunger, you could simply bring a banana to work and over time the new positive habit will emerge.
So how long does it take to create a new habit?
Some studies point to 21 days, some say 66 days and other people have said longer. I think it’s probably safe to say the evidence isn’t conclusive. Regardless of how long it takes your chance of success for eliminating bad habits will be drastically improved if you follow this two step process.
I’ll also show you two ways to keep a bad habit from coming back near the end of the video. I hope this information helps!