Habits are our brains shortcuts to allow you to concentrate on more important things. Most people don’t think about how each lace wraps around the other, you just automatically tie your shoes.
Habits (or automatic behaviours) can be split into 4 parts:
- Cue: the event that triggers a habit (e.g. you smell food)
- Response: how you feel about the cue (you feel hungry)
- Action: you automatically perform an action (you make a sandwich)
- Reward: you feel better (you’re not hungry any more)
When you’re trying to form a new habit, or break a bad habit you can think about strategies that effect these stages.
- Cue: the most obvious way to change this is through ‘environment design’ – put a bowl of fruit on the table, which reminds you to eat more fruit.
- Response: this is the trickiest part to change. Pair a new habit with something else you enjoy, to give it a positive association (e.g. only listen to your favourite songs when you’re running.)
- Action: make the action as easy as possible if you’re trying to build a new habit, or as hard as you can make it when you’re trying to break a bad habit. Stop buying snacks if you’re trying to change your diet, to make eating healthy the easy option.
- Reward: Give yourself an extra reward when you’re building up a habit that has long-term benefits. The sooner your brain gets a rewarding outcome, the stronger the habit forms.
Your actions impact your identity, changing your habits will lead to a change in personality, as with repeated actions comes a sense of being ‘someone who _____”
Over time small changes build up to large differences, but the most difficult part is starting. Concentrate on doing the first 5 minutes of a habit, and being consistent.
Once you’ve been writing for 5 minutes every day for a week, it’s much easier to sit down and write for much longer without thinking. If you establish the habit by the end of the year you will have been writing for 30 hours minimum, probably much longer, and you’ll be a better writer.
Conclusion: this book makes so much sense to me. It gives a great mixture of actual things you can do to change your habits, as well as good insights about why the techniques work.
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