Habits are what make up most of our day. Wake up, brush your teeth, take a shower, eat breakfast. When we do something out of order, it feels wrong and we might forget the other tasks in our routine. I know that if I don’t complete my habit for getting out of my car when I get to work, I’ll forget my badge and have to walk back to my car.
A habit loop consists of a cue, a routine and a reward. I’m bored>go on social media>I’m not bored anymore. These loops get ingrained into our mind and they happen without us being conscious of them. Sometimes you’re in the middle of the loop (a bad one) and you catch yourself before you finish. They are so powerful that if you are not aware of what’s going on, the bad ones can have you spinning your wheels if you’re trying to improve flawed areas in your life.
So how can you use this to your advantage? How can you change a bad habit into a good one? Let’s examine this by using a bad habit that we’ve all had issues with. You’re walking around the house bored out of your mind. You end up in the kitchen. You open the fridge and get out a piece of chocolate cake. You occupy your time by sitting at the dinner table eating the cake. The first step in changing a habit (in this case) is to identify the habit loop. Boredom (cue)>find food (routine)>occupied (reward). The cue and the reward can’t be changed. The only thing you can change is the routine. You have to find good routines that replace the bad ones. In this example, we can replace “find food” with “take a walk”. You also have to be conscious of the cue or else you won’t know when to use your new routine.
Here are some tips to help you get your habits on the right track.
- Start small- Find a small task that you can do that you’re sure to complete.
- Break it into smaller chunks- If the task you choose has many steps, add them one at a time to your new routine
- Go at a pace you can handle- Don’t expect the routine to be second nature when you start. Take it slow so you can stay on track
- Don’t talk yourself out of it- Be positive. Remind yourself why you’re doing this and that it’s going to be a good thing. If you focus on the negative, it’ll be easier to talk yourself out of the new routine.
- Get back on track quickly- If you falter (and you will), get back on your new routine ASAP. Don’t give yourself time to slip back into the old routine.
- Enjoy completing each habit loop- Be proud of yourself. Celebrate your successes. This will help you make positive changes.
These tips can be applied to any habit you want you change or start. All habits have the same structure. You have to be honest and identify the routines that you want to change. Give it a try. You’ll be a habit hacker in no time.