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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: youwillgetresults@gmail.com

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    Last Updated on January 3, 2020

    The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

    The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

    Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

    The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

    1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

    Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

     I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

    To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

    And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

     2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

    Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

    3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

    Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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    4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

    The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

    5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

    Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

    6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

    Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

    7. Positive people smile a lot!

    When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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    8. People who are positive are great communicators.

    They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

    9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

    One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

    10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

    Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

    How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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    I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

    Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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