Read part 1 of this article first. This is part 2.
The first step in changing a habit is identifying the cue and the reward. Most habits are automatic behaviors outside of the awareness of our cortex – the thinking mind. We have clearly identify
Duhigg shares his personal experience with changing his own bad habit. Duhigg had put on 8 pounds due to his “bad” habit of eating a cookie every day. Every afternoon, he would walk to the cafeteria close to his workplace. The cafeteria had an amazing selection of cookies. Duhigg would buy a cookie and coffee, sit down and chat with his friends and colleagues while eating the cookie and sipping the coffee. To stop his cookie habit, he even put a post-it reminder on his desk — “Do not eat cookies in the afternoon”, but found himself doing it anyway. He wondered why a reasonably smart guy like him (he is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist) would have difficulty in changing his own behavior. He started doing some research on habits and ended up writing his best-selling book — “The Power of Habits”.
To change a habit, Charles Duhigg prescribes the “Golden Rule”. Within the habit loop – change the routine while maintaining the cue and the reward. It sounds simplistic, yet it is very effective in changing habits. How did Duhigg apply the Golden Rule to his cookie habit? He became aware of, understood and identified the cues and rewards. At 3:15 in the afternoon, his cue was boredom from a long day’s work. His reward was to meet friends and colleagues and gossip. He kept the same cue — boredom at 3:15 pm, and the same reward — gossiping with friends. However, he changed the routine — at 3:15 pm, on cue, he would get up from his desk, walk to the desk of a colleague and gossip for 15 minutes. The only change he made was in the routine — instead of gossiping at the cafeteria (with tempting cookies and coffee) he would gossip at a friend’s desk. As a result, Duhigg lost 21 pounds over next few months.
A large part of our daily behavior is habitual. We may think we make choices, but most of the time we are on auto-pilot triggered by cues. While we focus our attention on our behavior — in an attempt to change a habit — what governs habits are the cues and the rewards. By understanding the habit loop and applying the golden rule, we can change any habit in our lives. Once the habits are formed, we will be on auto-pilot. Instead of the daily struggle of trying to overcome our cravings, we will be on cruise control towards our desired goals. It is difficult to break a bad habit, knowing and applying the science of habit change will make it a lot easier.
What habits good habits would you like to make a part of your daily routine? What bad habits would you like to change? What are the cues that are triggering you into the bad habits? What are the rewards? What are the new and better routines that can replace your undesirable behavior — while keeping the same cue and reward. Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section.
Keywords – habits, habit loop, charles duhigg, the power of habit