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Habit Hack: The Science Behind How A Habit Is Formed

Habit Hack: The Science Behind How A Habit Is Formed

“Starting next month, I will run three times a week”

“After Christmas, I will only eat ice cream once a week maximum”

How many of you have tried to start a new habit and failed?

Forming a new habit is not an easy task, yet we all know that in order to improve ourselves, creating a new habit (or breaking a bad one) is crucial and unavoidable.

As people who love to learn new ways to “hack” our lives, i believe that we need to break down the mechanic of how a habit is created in order to successfully create a new habit.

Charles Duhigg (a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter) wrote a very good book that breaks down the mechanics of habit creation, it is titled “The Power of Habit” (Published in 2012). You can see his work here: http://charlesduhigg.com/the-power-of-habit/

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Power Of Habit

    He argues that habit creation involves three components:

    1. Cue
    2. Routine
    3. Reward

    The cue is the trigger behind the behavior. For example, when you receive an email in your phone, your phone make a sound and the light is blinking. That is the cue.

    What do you do next? You get anxious on who might send you an email, and what is the email about. Then you open your phone to check your email (that’s the routine!).

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    The reward is, you get a feeling of relief / satisfaction (and no more anxiety), because you are no longer curious who send the email and what is the email about.

    How do you break your bad habit then? There are two ways to break and improve your bad habit:

    A. Turn Off The Cue

    Using the example above, you turn off the notification on your phone, or maybe you just put your phone away. Without the presence of the phone, there is no cue that sets your bad habit of checking emails too often. Hence, you can focus on more important task and be more productive.

    On the other way round, you can also irreversibly use the cue as a way to forge positive habit change. For example, you have decided that you want to go the gym more often. Instead of relying on your willpower to go to the gym, you can sleep in your workout clothes and also put your running shoes beside your bed, so when you wake up the next day and found it, you will automatically think of the gym, and hence go there more often.

    As you can see, most of the times, the decision to do something has been decided way back before the action actually takes place. In this case, the decision whether to go to the gym or not, is not decided on the morning when you just wake up (and most probably still feel sleepy), but it has been decided the day before that, when you put your running shoes as a cue beside your bed.

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    B. Change The Routine

    But what if the cue is something that is unavoidable (or unchangeable), you ask? Let’s see this example:

    A client of mine (let’s call him Obamma) is your typical office worker. Like most of us, he is in a job that he does not really love. His job consists of many repetitive stuffs that make him bored.

    He has this bad habit every day around 2.30 pm to go to cafeteria to eat cookie. He knows this is a bad habit and yet he is still doing it day after day.

    After working with me and doing this exercise, here’s what he found:

    – What’s the CUE and why are you doing that habit? At first he thought that he is craving sweet stuffs (he said that he has a “sweet tooth”), but after doing a deeper thinking, he finally realize that the real cue is BOREDOM. He is bored and crave mental / physical activity.
    – What’s the ROUTINE? Go to cafeteria and eat cookie.
    – What’s the REWARD? His craving of physical activity is fulfilled, he is not bored anymore.

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    He knows that it is pretty difficult to turn off the cue, so instead he change his routine. Now instead of going to cafeteria to eat the cookie, he can:

    – Go to water cooler and drink water
    – Go have a quick chat with coworker
    – Go to toilet and wash his face

    After doing the exercise with me, he has been able to break his bad habit. Now he never goes to the cafeteria to eat cookies anymore.

    A study by Psychol Health Med that was published on August 16, 2011 also finds that habitual behaviors that are elicited automatically are more likely to be maintained. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21749245). In other words, you should not rely on willpower to maintain habits, but you should create automatic systems instead. Hence it is very important for you to also do these exercises, find out reasons behind why you do certain habits, and try to fix it.

    Now, it is all about YOU. What good habits do you want to start? How about the bad ones which you want to break?

    Start applying the technique to improve your life NOW. If you have any question, you can leave a comment here or you can email me HERE: [email protected]

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    Last Updated on February 15, 2019

    Why Is Goal Setting Important to a Truly Fulfilling Life?

    Why Is Goal Setting Important to a Truly Fulfilling Life?

    In Personal Development-speak, we are always talking about goals, outcomes, success, desires and dreams. In other words, all the stuff we want to do, achieve and create in our world.

    And while it’s important for us to know what we want to achieve (our goal), it’s also important for us to understand why we want to achieve it; the reason behind the goal or some would say, our real goal.

    Why is goal setting important?

    1. Your needs and desire will be fulfilled.

    Sometimes when we explore our “why”, (why we want to achieve a certain thing) we realize that our “what” (our goal) might not actually deliver us the thing (feeling, emotion, internal state) we’re really seeking.

    For example, the person who has a goal to lose weight in the belief that weight loss will bring them happiness, security, fulfillment, attention, popularity and the partner of their dreams. In this instance, their “what” is weight-loss and their “why” is happiness (etc.) and a partner.

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    Six months later, they have lost the weight (achieved their goal) but as is often the case, they’re not happier, not more secure, not more confident, not more fulfilled and in keeping with their miserable state, they have failed to attract their dream partner.

    After all, who wants to be with someone who’s miserable? They achieved their practical goal but still failed to have their needs met.

    So they set a goal to lose another ten pounds. And then another. And maybe just ten more. With the destructive and erroneous belief that if they can get thin enough, they’ll find their own personal nirvana. And we all know how that story ends.

    2. You’ll find out what truly motivates you

    The important thing in the process of constructing our best life is not necessarily what goals we set (what we think we want) but what motivates us towards those goals (what we really want).

    The sooner we begin to explore, identify and understand what motivates us towards certain achievements, acquisitions or outcomes (that is, we begin moving towards greater consciousness and self awareness), the sooner we will make better decisions for our life, set more intelligent (and dare I say, enlightened) goals and experience more fulfilment and less frustration.

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    We all know people who have achieved what they set out to, only to end up in the same place or worse (emotionally, psychologically, sociologically) because what they were chasing wasn’t really what they were needing.

    What we think we want will rarely provide us with what we actually need.

    3. Your state of mind will be a lot healthier

    We all set specific goals to achieve/acquire certain things (a job, a car, a partner, a better body, a bank balance, a title, a victory) because at some level, most of us believe (consciously or not) that the achievement of those goals will bring us what we really seek; joy, fulfilment, happiness, safety, peace, recognition, love, acceptance, respect, connection.

    Of course, setting practical, material and financial goals is an intelligent thing to do considering the world we live in and how that world works.

    But setting goals with an expectation that the achievement of certain things in our external, physical world will automatically create an internal state of peace, contentment, joy and total happiness is an unhealthy and unrealistic mindset to inhabit.

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    What you truly want and need

    Sometimes we need to look beyond the obvious (superficial) goals to discover and secure what we really want.

    Sadly, we live in a collective mindset which teaches that the prettiest and the wealthiest are the most successful.

    Some self-help frauds even teach this message. If you’re rich or pretty, you’re happy. If you’re both, you’re very happy. Pretty isn’t what we really want; it’s what we believe pretty will bring us. Same goes with money.

    When we cut through the hype, the jargon and the self-help mumbo jumbo, we all have the same basic goals, desires and needs:

    Joy, fulfilment, happiness, safety, peace, recognition, love, acceptance, respect, connection.

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    Nobody needs a mansion or a sport’s car but we all need love.

    Nobody needs massive pecs, six percent body-fat, a face lift or bigger breasts but we all need connection, acceptance and understanding.

    Nobody needs to be famous but we all need peace, calm, balance and happiness.

    The problem is, we live in a culture which teaches that one equals the other. If only we lived in a culture which taught that real success is far more about what’s happening in our internal environment, than our external one.

    It’s a commonly-held belief that we’re all very different and we all have different goals — whether short term or long term goals. But in many ways we’re not, and we don’t; we all want essentially the same things.

    Now all you have to do is see past the fraud and deception and find the right path.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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