623 - How We Form Habits

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By Gregg Clunis. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

In this episode, we look at how we form habits.

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The Problem

I’ve mentioned on this podcast a number of times that the secret to moving forward is taking consistent action over long periods of time. I’ve also spent an enormous amount of time talking about how taking advantage of the habit system can make it significantly easier to do that.

The process for change becomes really simple when we break it down into these two things.

  1. You identify the change you want to create
  2. You figure out the key behavior that will drive it
  3. You turn that behavior into a habit
  4. Over time the change occurs

It’s basic, straightforward, and makes sense. But obviously simple and basic aren’t quite enough to create change.

Digging Deeper

You may already know this but let’s quickly cover what exactly a habit is. According to Oxford, a habit is defined as a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.

In other words, they are the things you regularly lean towards doing when faced with a similar situation. This could be something good for you like brushing your teeth or it could be something detrimental like responding negatively to anxiety.

This is an important point. From the brain’s point of view, there is no difference between a good habit and a bad habit. There are just tendencies in our behavior that get reinforced.

So how do habits form? In a response on the website 1440.org Dr. Judson Brewer said this about habits:

“In brain speak, the habit loop needs a trigger, a behavior, and a reward.”

The Solution

Well the first thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter whether you are purposefully building a good habit or accidentally building a bad habit. The process is going to be the same. This means you need to be careful of how you respond to things.

But assuming that we want to purposefully build a good habit, one that aligns with the goals we’ve set, then we simply need to look at the process and try to create those outcomes.

We need a trigger of some kind and we need a similar context. This could be anything, just pick something that you can repeat on a close to daily basis. This is why tools like Habit Stacking, the process of piling a new habit on top of an existing habit work. The existing habit already has a trigger and so you piggy back your new habit with that existing trigger.

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