Kick the habit using ‘The Power of Habit’

power_of_habit

Are you struggling to get rid of a bad habit?

Well, I am.

I have a sweet tooth. Last year, during holiday season, when my kitchen started filling with chocolates, cookies and cupcakes, my liking for sweets turned into an obsession. Soon, I started craving for dessert after every meal, including breakfast. Obviously, I started gaining a lot of weigth. I wanted to stay away from treats, but I just couldn’t.

However, recently I came across a book which helped me manage my habit.

 ‘The Power of Habit. Why we do what we do in Life and Business.’ , written by Charles Duhigg, explains why habits exist and how they can be changed.

In this blog, I‘m going to share few interesting insights from this book,:

  1. Habit Loop
  2. A Framework to manage our habits

Habit Loop:

Every day we have lot of choices available to us. The moment we wake up in the morning, we can either hop into the shower or check email; we can drive to work or carpool with a friend; we eat a healthy salad for lunch or tasty burger and fries.  Surprisingly, according to a research,   more than 40%  of our everyday actions aren’t actual decisions but habits.

Researchers at MIT discovered that, at the core of every habit, is a loop that consists of three parts: A cue, a routine, and a reward. Over time, this loop becomes more and more automatic until a habit is born. When a habit starts, the brain stops decision making and continues with the same routine.

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Unless you deliberately fight to change a habit, the cue-routine-reward pattern unfolds automatically. If it’s a bad habit, how do we get rid of that?.

Framework to manage our habits

In this book, the author, provided a framework to manage our habits and explained it using an example. Let’s say that you are craving for a chocolate chip cookie every day and you want to get out of that habit.

  1. Identify the routine

Let’s say that every afternoon, you get up from your desk, walk to the cafeteria to buy a chocolate chip cookie and eat it while chatting with friends.  That’s your routine. We still have to figure our cue and reward.

The cue can be hunger , Boredom or  Low blood sugar.

The reward can be The cookie? Or temporary distraction? Or socializing with colleagues?

Until we test various situations, we can’t determine what is driving our routine.

  1. Experiment with rewards:

On the first day of your experiment, when you feel the urge to go to the cafeteria, adjust your routine so it delivers a different reward.

For instance, you can go outside, walk around the block, and then go back to your desk without eating anything.

The next day, buy a donut, and eat it at your desk.

The next day, drink coffee while chatting with your friends.

By experimenting with different rewards, you can identify your exact craving. Let’s say that you discover that you just wanted to socialize and not much interested in the cookies, then you can move to the next step.

3.Isolate the cue

The trigger for our habits is hard to identify because there is too much information that affects our behavior. To figure out the cue , write down five things the moment you get the urge :

  • Location
  • Time
  • Emotional state
  • Other people
  • Immediately preceding action

After you identify the cue, you have to go for the final step.

  1. Have a plan

If you learned from the above experiment that around 3:30 in the afternoon, you actually craved for a distraction from work, then you can plan ahead about what to do. From next time onwards, you can walk to a friend’s desk and talk for few minutes instead of eating a cookie. Initially, it may be difficult, but over the time, you can build this new habit.

After I analyzed my habit of eating treats, I came to know that I craved for something sweet,  not necessarily chocolates. .Therefore, I started filling my dining table with delicious fruits, so I can munch on them whenever my craving kicks in.

Therefore, dear friends, habits aren’t destiny. Using this framework of identifying the routing, cue, reward and the planning our response in advance, we all can manage our habits effectively.

For more information on this wonderful book, please check the author’s website:

http://charlesduhigg.com/the-power-of-habit/

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