The Power of Habit
Why do some goals feel easier to achieve than others?
We all know the power of effective goal setting, planning, visualisation and making yourself accountable. But whether it’s sorting out your finances or sticking to an exercise regime, the power lies in the accumulation of our day-to-day decisions and habits, and more importantly, having the ability to change them.
Understanding why and how habits form is crucial to understanding the power of habit.
From a scientific perspective, habits are created as a way for our brains to save energy and effort. It’s instinctive and allows us to stop constantly thinking about basic behaviours we’ve already learnt such as walking or brushing our teeth, so we can direct more mental energy into learning new activities.
But our brains can’t distinguish between a good or bad habit.
Once we’ve established a particular routine, such as pressing snooze on our alarm in the morning rather than going for a run, these patterns become well reinforced in our minds which is why they can be difficult to break. Unless you know how to tweak them, that is.
In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg believes the key to permanent change when it comes to our habits, is in identifying and altering their key components. By learning their structure and observing the stages of their formation, it becomes easier to control them.
Based on a ton of research into behavioural psychology, he believes the framework of habits can be broken down into a 3-step loop he calls The Habit Loop:
Step 1: The Cue
This is the trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and initiates the particular behaviour or habit. The cue can be a visual trigger, a time of day, a particular emotion or thought or even the company of a specific person or people.
Step 2: The Routine
This is the actual behaviour itself. The process or activity you are trying to change and it can be physical, mental or emotional.
Step 3: The Reward
This is the part that helps your brain decide if this particular loop or habit is worth remembering for the future. It’s the benefit you receive from the behaviour. The reward can a range of things, from food or drugs that provide a particular sensation, to emotional feelings such as pride or self-satisfaction.
Once we understand these stages, we can start to take control of the habit.
Let’s say the behaviour you’re trying to change is having a few too many wines at after work drinks on a Friday night. Each time this habit is played out, it sabotages your healthy eating and exercise plan, blows your budget by the generous rounds you buy your friends and you wake up hung-over with feelings of regret.
So how do you go about changing this persistent behaviour? According to Duhigg, by using these little tricks:
Identify the three components of your Habit Loop
Be really honest with yourself. What triggers the need for many glasses of vino? The cue could be as simple as the emotional feeling of needing to unwind and destress after another hectic week at work. Or is it more of a way to celebrate a productive week and the cue is that particular time on a Friday afternoon?
You know the routine part is meeting your friends at the bar straight after work and ordering the first round. Now look at the reward part of the behaviour. Is it the relaxed and carefree feeling you’re after? Or the recognition you get from your friends when the toast is directed at you? It’s usually not the physical effects of the alcohol itself but rather the emotional release.
Eliminate as many cues as possible
Ask yourself why you feel so stressed in the first place. Are you taking on more work than you should? Do you need to manage your time better? Can you delegate any work to lessen the load? If your cue is dissatisfaction with your job maybe it’s time to start looking at other options? By getting rid of these triggers the need or craving for that particular behaviour will lessen and so will the chance of running it’s habit loop.
Choose a substitute for the routine part of your habit
If eliminating the cues isn’t possible at this stage, the next step is finding an alternative behaviour that will provide the same rewards as the one you are trying to replace. For example, rather than drinking wine to relax how about trying to meditate after work? Or going for a run and letting the endorphins take over. If it’s in your budget how about rewarding yourself with a massage?
What works for one may not for others but it’s about experimenting and finding healthier and budget-friendly alternative that give you the same reward. Ones that better align with your goals and don’t disrupt your progress in other areas. Once we create this new pattern, over time it becomes as automatic as the old habit we’ve replaced.
The last part of the process is to gather reinforcements.
If your goal is to have a rocking body by summer, hire a passionate PT or join a boot-camp style training group. If you’re tired of living paycheck to paycheck, book in a session with WE and start on the journey to wealth creation. They’ll not only help you identify the key habits that are slowing your progress but will keep you accountable to creating long lasting and successful new ones.
We think we can do it on our own.
You need to design your environment in a way that will support your success and the individuals in it play a huge role. Surrounding yourself with people who have created long-lasting habits similar to those you are wanting to create can be a powerful motivator.
Science has proven that our brains can be reprogrammed and being able to understand and identify the key components of our habits is half the battle.The other half is repetition and support. The beautiful part is that once we successfully reprogram one habit we can start to shift other behaviours in our lives that aren’t serving us well. And gradually build a life more aligned with who we want to be and what we want to achieve, rather than letting our non-productive habits take the wheel.
They say it take 21 days to form a new habit. How many can you change by the end of 2016?
Ready to become your very best? Get started with a free strategy session today.
Article by Evie Tramer
Disclaimer: all information contained within this article is of a general nature. Do not rely upon it when making financial decisions. Please consult a professional financial advisor or planner (like us!) before acting.