Change habits, even if you’ve tried and failed before
Do you wish you could get up earlier? Do you wish you went to the gym more often? Do you wish you ate healthier? Do you wish you could quit smoking? Do you wish you watched less TV? Do you wish you could leave work earlier? Do you wish you didn’t procrastinate everything until the last minute?
Change is never easy, especially when we don’t have the right tools or knowledge to make the change stick. Forcing ourselves to do something is often neither enjoyable nor effective. But we still wish we could change. If you can relate, pick up a copy of Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit. He uses countless examples that relate to all kinds of people (stay-at-home moms, religious leaders, marketeers, etc.) and how to take control of habits to your benefit – whether it’s changing bad habits, or forming new ones.
The book is essential to understanding the underlying concepts to habits, and he provides a short-cut methodology at the end in 4 steps:
- Identify the routine you want to change.
- Experiment with different rewards.
- Isolate the cue.
- Have a plan.
1. Identify the routine
The routine will have 3 components: a cue; a routine; a reward. For example, an afternoon stop at the muffin shop is comprised of a cue (perhaps afternoon boredom at work); a reward (leaving the office to go to the bakery); a reward (engaging in conversation with the staff at the bakery and people watching).
2. Experiment with different rewards
In the afternoon muffin example, the reward may be the need for a sugar rush, the need for distraction from work, or the need for getting some blood pumping by walking down the street. In order to determine the true reward, try different rewards every day for a few days or weeks to see which one satisfies your habit. For instance, instead of going to the bakery, just go for an extended walk. Or eat an apple. Or sit outside and people-watch. Experiment with different rewards other than the muffin itself.
After each reward, jot down in a notebook the first 3 things that come to mind when you get back to your desk. Emotions, random thoughts, reflections on how you’re feeling, whatever. Just write down 3 things. This method is used to cement that moment in your mind.
Then set an alarm for 15min. When the alarm rings, think about if you still have the craving for a muffin or not. This will reveal if whatever reward you substituted actually replaced your normal habit (like eating a muffin).
3. Isolate the cue
In order to isolate the cue, each day when the urge for your habit hits, write down five notes that cover: location, time, emotional state, other people around, immediately preceding action. Once you do this for a few days, you will start to recognize a pattern about what triggers your habit.
4. Have a plan
Once you’ve mapped out your habit loop, you know the reward driving your behavior, you know the cue that triggers it, and you know the routine itself. Now you can start to change it. You can follow the general formula: “When I receive CUE, I will do ROUTINE, in order to get REWARD.”
So using the muffin example, if the CUE is a certain time in the afternoon, and the reward is actually the distraction of walking somewhere and people watching, then the new plan could be: “At 3pm every day, I will walk to the park and people watch for 10 minutes.”
Used by great marketing firms
This is a simplified version of Duhigg’s book, which will help you master your own habits as well as how to create new habits, for yourself, those around you, or even your customers (as great marketing firms often do).
Thanks for reading, comments are welcome below.