Do you have a habit (or 2) that you’d like to change?
Almost every one does.
I’d like to share some insights I learned from “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg about habits, and changing them. The book has a lot of great information in it, and I highly recommend you read it – if you haven’t.
So just what is a habit?
Duhigg tells us that it’s the result of our brain constantly looking for ways to save effort. “Left to it’s own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine in to a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often. This effort-saving instinct is a huge advantage”
So how do we “make” a habit? A habit has three components.
Cue+Routine+Reward = Habit
The cue is the trigger that starts you into your routine -for example – the alarm clock goes off
The routine – do you, like me, hit snooze? or like my husband (dang him!) jump out of bed totally awake and ready to go? (After 30 plus years, I still want to know how he does that!)
The reward – for me it’s thinking I’ll feel more rested with “just another 5 minutes”. For my husband it’s “looking forward to a new day”
Think about a habit that you want to change. What are it’s Cue, Routine and Rewards?
Here’s the twist that surprised me most – changing the habit is best done by keeping the cue the same, changing the routine up, and keeping the reward very very close to what it is now.
And here I was trying to change everything at once! No wonder most of my prior attempts were, well, not complete successes!
Here is an example of a habit I chose to play with when I was studying this book:
The habit was starting my day with a cup of coffee (on an empty stomach). My desired shift in routine- to drink a full glass of water with lemon before having my coffee.
My old cue was reaching for the cup
My old routine was pouring coffee and thinking about how it was going to help wake me up.
My old reward – feeling that, (as I typically get out of bed a bit hesitantly and a bit groggy) , I was – through the caffeine – coming out of that morning fog a bit quicker and giving myself an energy boost.
My new habit:
My new cue was reaching for a cup (same as before I even put the lemon water in a coffee mug)
My new routine is filling it with water and some lemon and, as I do it, I congratulate myself for making this choice and reinforce the reward*
My new reward – feeling that (as I typically get out of bed a bit hesitantly and a bit groggy), I am energizing my body by hydrating it with the water (rather than, I tell myself, the caffeine which counteracts the hydrating power of the water in coffee). I’m also adding a bit of balance to my PH levels (from the lemon). As a result, I am feeling more energetic and focused. (see how I kept many components of the old reward, and added some nuances to support why this new routine would actually give me the reward in a faster and better way?)
*Congratulating myself for this new routine has a belief building effect as well. Believing that you CAN make the change is critical to success. It worked very well for me, so I would add that when you successfully run your new routine – congratulate yourself for your choice.
On days that I “fail”, I forgive myself and make a decision to resume the new habit the next time!
Let’s change some habits, changing even one will have a positive ripple effect on your whole life!
Another key to creating a new habit is support- and we have a facebook group set up for that! Come and join us in our “Change a habit” exercise. Share what your old and new cue/routine/reward with us, post your successes and ask for help with any challenges you may encounter. Click here to join