Habits Do Matter: Here's Why (Technique Included)

5 min readphoto by Diego Marigno (2015)stories, popular

Our brains are very predictable. We reinforce and repeat the behaviors that make us feel good, and we try to avoid anything that doesn’t make us feel the same way.

A habit is simply a behavior that you have repeated so many times that it’s hardcoded in yourself. First, you have a trigger or a cue. Then, you crave for something that leads to a response, which ultimately yields a reward.

You can repeat a habit without even knowing that you’re repeating it, since some habits can be triggered and processed automatically, almost robotically.

Most habits we learned from others, and we should be able to discern if we should keep a habit or if we should break it. We need to be self-aware.

A Brief Introduction On Habits

Habits are basically a dopamine-response cycle. We get a lovely rush of dopamine when we perform something that we like. Whenever the situation to repeat that behavior arises, we’re going to eventually get a rush of dopamine just by thinking about that action.

Habits are sometimes pretty common, like turning the lights on whenever you walk into a black room. But, essentially, all habits work in the same way: they are a response to our environment, based on our memory.

Habits can be built, and they can also be removed from your life. We’re creatures of habits. We’re able to repeat behaviors over and over, and it doesn’t bore us. However, we should watch out and avoid repeating damaging behaviors.

We need to learn the habit of being self-aware.

Habits Define Who We Are

Habits simply reinforce the persona that we believe we are, allowing us to become better. Although it could also be possible to repeat a damaging habit.

We need to change the way that we believe ourselves to be, and then everything else will follow suit.

Changing old behaviors isn’t easy, but it isn’t difficult either… it takes time, and trial and error. Once you’ve identified what you need to change, doing the actual change becomes easier.

You need to learn to understand what things define you, what habits are good and should be kept, and which habits are not good and should be removed. That’s not an easy task, but it can be achieved.

The truth is that the way that we define ourselves will define most of our habits. Habits are but a manifestation of what we believe ourselves to be deep down.

What defines you? What do you like about yourself? What don’t you like? You should start by making a list of it all, a list of every habit that you have, big or small.

Then, you’re going to start being self-aware and able to decide which habits should be kept, and which habits should be changed. Below are some techniques that will help you improve your habits.

How to Create New and Good Habits

Change is difficult. Being able to change the way that we do something is not easy at all. It requires strength and courage to be different.

You need to find a way to be different and start acting differently. You can change your environment; you can change or use other habits (which you like) to encourage yourself to do something else (which you don’t like).

James Clear defines in Atomic Habits a framework called the Four Laws of Behavior Change. If you want to create good habits, this is the place to start:

  1. Cue: Make it obvious.
  2. Craving: Make it attractive.
  3. Response: Make it easy.
  4. Reward: Make it satisfying.

How do you make a good habit stick? You ask yourself the previous questions regarding that habit. Good habits should be obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying.

Moreover, you can apply a simple formula using time and a place to encourage yourself to act, creating your own cues.

Here’s the formula: I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION]. For example, I will write for 1 hour at 5 pm in my living room.

Alternatively, you can also stack one habit on top of another. Here’s that formula: After I [CURRENT HABIT], I will [NEW HABIT]. For example: After I brush my teeth, I will sit on the sofa and meditate for 5 minutes.

Using these techniques, you’re able to improve and use time or a location as a cue. Also, you can take advantage of a habit that you already do and stack another habit on top of it.

How To Break Free from Bad Habits

We have covered a framework that allows you to build new habits. However, what if you wanted to change or break a bad habit? You invert the previous framework:

  1. (Inverted) Cue: Make it invisible.
  2. (Inverted) Craving: Make it un-attractive.
  3. (Inverted) Response: Make it difficult.
  4. (Inverted) Reward: Make it unsatisfying.

You can also apply the techniques that I previously explained to help you break from a bad habit. It’s going to take discipline and self-control. You can break bad habits by making them invisible, unattractive, difficult, and unsatisfying.

If you dedicate yourself to being who you want to be, your habits and behaviors will start to drift towards those things that are obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying to you.

Changing a habit is possible, but you need to keep in mind that you’ll never forget that habit. Even if you break a bad habit, the cues that previously triggered that behavior will still be there. That’s why being self-aware is so important.

Habits are built upon frequency, not time. The more that you repeat something, the more likely that you’ll continue to repeat the same behavior in the future.

Conclusion

Habits are a powerful part of our lives; they define simply everything that we do and how we behave.

There are habits that we copy from our surroundings, due to the culture that we’re embedded in.

There are also habits which we take upon ourselves due to the way our friends are, or simply because we liked something.

I believe that all habits, good and bad, are what forged us into what we are; they will continue to define us and to shape us into what we will be.

We just need to know the reason behind the habits that we have, and we need to be self-aware so that we can make corrections when it’s required.

There are many ways to change; there are many ways to improve and to become different. The biggest way to do that starts with yourself. Be self-aware. Be yourself.

Do you want to be different? Act differently and start changing your habits today!

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August 31st, 2020