UNDERSTANDING HABIT BUILDING LOOP
Building a habit is easier than you think.
And if previously you struggled to build one, as James Clear puts it, when building a habit “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
A habit loop, even though first mentioned in 1938 by B.F. Skinner in his book ‘The Behavior of Organisms’ as ‘stimulus, response, reward’, Charles Duhigg really was the one who popularized the concept of the habit loop in his widely popular book ‘The Power of Habit’.
In that book, he presents a habit loop formula, that helps you understand and build any habit and basically consists of CUE + ROUTINE + REWARD.
WHAT IS A CUE?
A cue could be anything from a place, time of a day, location to smell, sound or emotion. Basically, anything that triggers a certain action or thought and puts your mind and body into the mode of performing a certain routine.
For example, getting into the dark room, which automatically triggers your habit of looking for a light switch.
Or taking the toothbrush and applying toothpaste the way you always do.
Or example I love the most personally – going to the grandma’s place and immediately going into the kitchen, looking for food.
WHAT IS A Routine?
A routine is an actual behavior, ritual, action you perform that will turn into the habit once performed frequently enough.
Thus, turning on the light, applying toothpaste, going into the kitchen. The actions that follow the trigger.
WHAT IS A reward?
A reward is a feeling of satisfaction you get whenever you successfully finish the routine. It sends a positive signal to your brain saying ‘Doing this feels good; you should do more of it!’.
To follow the examples already given, it’s the feeling of being able to see things clearly in the room, feeling of freshness in the mouth when brushing the teeth and a feeling of having delicious food at grandmas.
These are all great rewards that were registered in our brain each time we did it until it became a habit, an automatic action.
Another example I like to use is to ask yourself what kind of people you like to hang out the most?
The ones that make you feel good. You see a person, you spend some time with him/her and if you’re feeling better than before, next time you’ll want to spend time with the same person again. Or completely opposite.
If you feel great immediately after completing an action – you want to repeat again.
HOW TO USE HABIT LOOP TO BUILD A MORNING ROUTINE?
Firstly, I’ve tried the habit loop formula myself and it works.
My own morning routine looks roughly like this:
- Wake up 6.30 am
- Do yoga or exercise for 30min
- Meditate for 10min
- Take a shower
- Do 1h of work
- Have a breakfast
Would you like to have more structured mornings too? Then, follow these 5 steps.
1. Write down things that you do every morning already
Waking up, grabbing a phone, stepping out of bed, going the usual route to the bathroom, taking a shower, heading to the fridge and so on. Be as detailed as possible. This is NOT a place to judge yourself or write a routine you WANT to have. Just write things out as they are.
2. Choose a habit you want to add into your morning routine
The key to building a routine is started by adding habits one by one. Choose a habit your really you want to have as part of your mornings and then go to step 3.
3. Stack new habit right on top of one of your current habits
For example, if you take a shower every morning, you could say: “after I take a shower, I will meditate for 10mins”.
This concept is called habit stacking and has a simple formula:
After/Before I [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT].You can read more about it in James Clear’s post on habit stacking.
4. Make it easy, set small targets first
So small that you could do it even if you’re late to work, sick or have no energy. E.g., meditating for at least 3 minutes every morning no matter what. This way, you will not feel overwhelmed by the whole mission of building your personal morning ritual and will be more likely to stick with it long enough for it to become a habit.
Don’t make a mistake most of us do – starting big with a mentality of ‘all in or nothing’, just because we have this sudden boost of motivation and willpower. It’s a short-sighted strategy that fails 9/10 times because life gets in the way.
5. Track it
Download one of the habit tracking apps or print this habit chain sheet we’ve prepared for you. By tracking your habit, you will shoot many birds with one stone – you’ll make it satisfying by seeing your progress, you’ll be motivated to keep going and you’ll get an additional trigger to perform your routine.
After a couple of weeks, this will become more and more automatic for you. And a couple of months later you won’t even remember life without your new habit 🙂
Then simply move on by adding another tiny habit to your routine. You could even use your newly developed habit in Step 3!
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