Creating Habits That Work

January 27, 2018

Did you know that the most popular new year resolution is in Diet, exercise and weight loss area? 

 

Did you also know that a staggering 92% of all new year resolutions fail by February. 

 

Neilsen conducted a popular survey of resolutions and the one that comes right on the top every year across globe is Fitness. The statistics also revealed that only 8% of people will become successful in keeping their resolutions. 

 

The reason why resolutions fail they say, is because there is a disconnect between desire and actual behaviour.

 

So how can we avoid this disconnect?  According to Duke university our habits account to 40 percent of our behaviours. Behaviours are done consciously but habits are done subconsciously. 

 

So what you do repeatedly becomes a habit and our brain moves it from conscious state of mind to the subconscious state

 

If you want to ensure you achieve success in your resolution, the best bet is to make it into a habit.  

 

So how do we do that? There’s a lot of science behind the process of habit formation.

 

Charles Duhigg, in his book - The Power of Habit says that the key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work.

 

He describes a simple neurological loop at the core of every habit. He calls it the habit loop, a framework which comprises of 3 simple steps - Cue, Routine & Rewards. 

 

Step 1 : Cues /Triggers /Reminders

 

Cues are triggers that remind you to initiate your behaviour.  When you want to start a new habit its easy to say I am motivated I don’t need any reminders. But thats exactly why people fail. We often rely on our memory and we forget todo what we planned.

 

Triggers are critical for forming new habits. You are not relying on motivation or your memory. 

 

The best way to create a trigger is to start a new habit based on the existing habit.

 

For example if your goal is to meditate, what can be your best trigger that comes out from your existing habit?  Does your early morning alarm serve you as a reminder?  Or would you prefer to meditate right after taking your bath? In which case taking a bath serves you as a reminder

 

I meditate every evening before I sleep and I use a guided meditation app which sends me an alert. But my trigger is something else. The last thing I used to do before I sleep was to switch off all the lights. I use that as a trigger to start my practice. Now, the last thing I do every day is to meditate.

 

Step 2 : Routine /Action

 

Routine is the action you take. This is the habit you’re trying to set. So when you’re choosing your habit, choose the one thats easy to start. Leo Babauta, “make it so easy that you can't say no.”

 

Staying with our example of meditation, your routine would be to sit in your meditation spot, cut out all distractions and close your eyes. 

 

In the beginning, it doesn’t matter that your mind wanders or you’re unable to concentrate. Focus more on the fact that you’re sitting each day to meditate. You will automatically improve your performance, or in this case concentration once you form the habit of sitting down. 

 

Step 3 : Reward

 

Reward is focusing on the benefit you gain out of this habit.  So its important you understand why did you want to form the habit in the first place. If someone else asked you to do but you don’t think it is important, there are 100% chances you will not do it.

 

But if forming this habit is important to you then creating a reward system for every achieved routine will set you up for success. And this need not be tangible all the time. 

 

Staying with our example, you can create a task of ’meditate for 10 min’ in your to-do list. Every time you check it off your task, your brain creates dopamine, a neurotransmitter in your body which gives you pleasure and motivation. 

 

This will make you feel good about yourself and you’re likely to do the task again and again because of this feel good factor.

 

So there you are.. a proven framework backed by behavioural science in forming habits. I highly recommend you to experiment on this and see how it can do wonders to you.

 

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  • Aparna RK
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