Friday, May 20, 2022
Apps

How Habits Work (VIDEO) – The Sweet Setup


This is a free video lesson from our Simple Habits course

In this video, we’re going to take a look at the mechanics of habits and explain how they work, then show you a way to use this in order to replace negative habits with positive ones.

All habits follow the same four-step pattern:

  1. Trigger
  2. Desire
  3. Decision
  4. Reward

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The first part is the trigger. This is the external stimuli or cue that kicks off the habit loop. By controlling the trigger, you can make positive habits easier to initiate or bad habits easier to break. For example, if you want to break a habit of eating junk food late at night, you can remove the trigger by simply not buying the snacks when you go to the store. If you don’t see the bag of chips in your pantry, then it’s easier to control the temptation to grab an unhealthy snack. Likewise, if you want to build a good habit, the trigger can simply be a visual cue reminding you take action. Make it as obvious as you can, something you absolutely cannot miss. For example, you could use a notification on your smartphone telling you to journal at the end of the day, or you could pack your gym bag the night before and put it by the door so you see it on your way to work in the morning.

The next step is the desire that comes from the trigger. This is the compulsion to take a certain action, but does allow a brief space between stimulus and response to adjust. For example, you may feel hungry (the trigger) and feel the desire to eat a greasy cheeseburger and fries, but that doesn’t mean you are required to satisfy that desire. You can still choose to grab a healthier meal instead. The trick here when modifying habits is to replace the desire for tasty comfort food with a different, stronger desire to be true to an alternate identity as a healthy person. Or for someone who is trying to build an exercise habit, replace the desire to sit on the couch and watch Netflix with a stronger desire to experience the satisfaction of having completed your workout. The more attractive you can make your desired action appear, the more likely you are to follow through with it.

The next step is the decision, or the action we typically think of as the habit itself. This is the thing we typically want to do when building a good habit or eliminate when breaking a bad habit. While the decision doesn’t happen automatically, it is a conditioned response. For many negative habits, we don’t consciously choose them — we simply fall into them because we don’t recognize how the trigger and desire lead us to make the decision. We just know we have trouble going to bed on time, or journaling consistently, or giving up cigarettes. We don’t see how the system leads us into making default decisions by guiding us down the path of least resistance.

But when we see how the pieces fit together, we can make small adjustments to modify our default behaviors and make decisions to live in alignment with our vision and values. By eliminating the friction required to activate positive habits (or increasing it for negative ones we want to eliminate), we can reprogram our subconscious to seek the good. For example, if you want to break the bad habit of binging Netflix every night when you get done with work, take the batteries out of your TV remote. The additional effort of having to get the batteries and put them in the remote before you can turn on the TV may be enough for you to avoid it altogether. Or if you want to read more, you could bring a physical book with you everywhere you go, making it easier to fill those small gaps of time with reading instead of something like social media.

The last part of the cycle is the reward, your prize for taking action. For many negative habits, the reward is a momentary feeling of pleasure that is followed by a longer period of shame. Recognizing this is important if you really want to change a habit. Knowing that the reward your body is seeking at a physiological level is fleeting makes it easier to resist. Likewise, if you can magnify the reward for positive actions, you can make it more satisfying and more likely to stick.

Understanding this 4-step process is vital to making lasting, positive change. It works the same for both positive habits that you want to build, and negative habits that you want to eliminate. You can even combine these through a process called substitution by replacing negative habits with positive ones.

When substituting habits, the first step is to recognize the trigger that kicks off your current negative habit. This might be an environmental trigger that you have no control over, but that’s okay — just recognize and label what typically starts the negative cycle for you. Next, identify what the real reward is that you’re seeking. It may not be obvious — for example, if you work in an office environment and want to avoid eating the donuts that are brought in every Friday morning, you may need to recognize that the real reward for you is not the sugary pastry, but the sense of camaraderie that you get around the water cooler where the donuts are kept. Being able to identify the real reward that you’re seeking is important when considering how to remake your habits as you’ll need to figure out a different way to get this reward.

Next, go back to the trigger and identify the desire that this trigger initiates. Ask yourself why you feel this desire, and think about how you can reframe this. If it’s a desire for momentary pleasure, try reframing it by considering how bad you’ll feel afterwards if you follow through with this desire. Reduce the desire for negative action as much as you can, then replace it with a greater desire for positive action. Attach this desire to the identity of the type of person you want to become — the one that is in line with your vision and values. This should lead effortlessly into the desired action. For example, let’s say you want to create a writing habit. What does a writer do? They write! It doesn’t matter how much or how well — the action associated with a writer is simply writing. Once you identify as a writer, it becomes easier to show up and write because you’re simply being true to yourself. And each time you write, you solidify that identity in your mind and cast your vote for the type of person you want to become.

Use habits to your advantage

The Simple Habits video course can help.

Discover how to make simple changes, starting today, that will make your daily life better. Watch the whole course in the time it takes for a long lunch break.

Learn More »





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