For the first post, I want explain the method for changing a bad habit because it will be the foundation for everything else I do on this blog. I’m going to use the terminology from The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg because it is by far the clearest and most applicable way I’ve found of describing this phenomenon. It’s no surprise that his book has done so well.
In short, the way he describes habits is as having three parts:
- The cue that causes you to begin the habit
- The routine of the habit; the action that has become habitual
- The reward you get from this routine
For example, say you chronically sleep through your alarm clock. The cue of that habit is the alarm going off. The routine is you hitting snooze or dismiss on the clock. And the reward is the happiness from cuddling back up under the sheets.
Change You Can Believe In
Changing this habit then, or any habit for that matter, requires a few steps:
- The Routine is usually what you’re concerned about already, (sleeping in, eating junk food, spending hours on Facebook) so you need to identify the Cue and Reward
- Once you know the Cue (in this case, the alarm going off) and the Reward (in this case, feeling happy and content) come up with other possible Routines that could be responses to that same Cue and provide similar Rewards (maybe a hot shower, making fresh coffee, watching a silly cat video, whatever you can look forward to)
- Practice implementing the new routine. In this case, you could take 20 minutes to get in bed, set your alarm for one minute in the future, have it go off, then immediately do your new routine (shower, coffee, cats, etc.)
- Start testing in the wild. Before going to sleep, tell yourself that when your alarm goes off, you’re going to immediately launch in to your new routine. In the morning when it does, go into your routine, and give yourself a pat on the back to reinforce it
You’ll see me apply this methodology in almost all of my bad habit changing attempts. I’ve found it to be incredibly useful and effective in practice, and used appropriately, I’m sure you’ll find the same.