Knowing is the first step (find part 1 here). Doing is the second and it is exactly there that there are some bumps on the road. The bumps are found in the definition of a habit, which is the following:
A settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.*
It might be hard to give up but impossible it is not.
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Charles Duhigg wrote a book called “The Power of habit“**. In which he explains how habits work and how you can change them. I have however not found anything in the book about completely discontinuing a habit. I figure that changing a bad habit into a beneficial habit is just as good. Mr. Duhigg says that in four steps you would be able to change a habit. It sounds as if it is really simple but the steps come with their own line of work as is expected. They are very doable when you are willing to do.
The first step is the easiest. It is finding out what your routine is. Routine in this case means your habit. A simple way of finding out what your routine is, is by asking yourself: “What bad habit do I want to change?“. Or you could just look at the list you made last week. Do however make sure that your action is written in detail so you know exactly what it is that you do that you want to change. Being vague and hasty in this is not going to help you.
In step two we start doing some trial and error. You perform your habit and afterwards you get some sort of reward. The reward is the reason why you perform the habit. Try and establish different rewards for about a week, depending on how often you perform your habit. By doing this you can figure out what it is you actually want and later on focus on achieving that in a more positive, uplifting way. Charles Duhigg also said to put an alarm 15 minutes after you have received your reward to see if you still crave your original reward. To be honest, I have not always done that because I am stubborn and just told myself that the new reward is my reality of the day. Did I struggle during those days? Yes, I very much did. Probably because the reward I got was not the one I was craving. I figured out that this part really is all about trial and error. And you need a whole lot of patience and determination to correctly identify what you truly want. It may not be as obvious as you think.
Step three was the one I had the most trouble with. Which is finding out what exactly triggers your habit. In other words what makes you want to start the habit. Psychology research in “The power of Habit” states that most habitual cues can be fitted into one of the following categories:
3. Emotional state
4. Other people (around)
5. Immediately preceding action
You answer these questions every time you feel the need to perform your bad habit. For me this was hard because I am mostly in different locations doing different things. I have however figured it out after more trial and error.
The last step is to make a plan based on what you learned about yourself in the previous steps. MIT researchers found this loop, cue-routine-reward, at the core of every habit according to C. Duhigg. So now that you know it, you can slowly change your habit into a positive habit. One you want to have as habit.
I decided to dig into my bad habit of overly using my phone. My habit loop looks like this:
Cue: Need for distraction, feeling stuck in what I am doing and thus not knowing how to continue. My emotional state was temporal mild frustration making me want to do something else.
Habit: Using my phone to check snapchat/twitter or (re)read the news.
Reward: Relieve of mild frustration. Simple guaranteed pleasures.
Knowing that it is a simple pleasure I seek I figured planning five minute work-outs would do the trick as well. It did! Instead of going on my phone I work on my body. This way I metaphorically kill two birds with one stone!
In conclusion this seems to be a very handy and so far effective way of changing habits without completely shocking your system as going cold turkey would. Do note that I only discussed the parts that are applicable to changing habits. The book obviously has more chapters. In those Charles Duhigg explains how habits work and are formed. It is a worthy read and no I am not being paid to say this. Changing my bad habits to good ones only benefits me and you, now that I have shared what I learned from Charles Duhigg.
Take power of your habits by refocusing the power of your habits.
Here’s a hack for when things get tough to help you get back on track.
*Definition found in: Oxford Dictionary.
** ”The Power Of Habit. Why we do what we do and how to change.” By Charles Duhigg. Credits go to him for doing the research and writing the book.