Learn more about motivationandinspiration with this collection
How to break bad habits
How habits are formed
The importance of consistency
• There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”
— David Foster Wallace
• The water is habits: The unthinking choices and invisible decisions that surround us — and which, just by looking at them, become visible again.
• This is how new habits are created: By putting together a cue, a routine, and a reward, and then cultivating a craving that drives the loop.
• To create a new habit (such as running each morning), you need to choose a simple cue (e.g. leaving your gym clothes out, lacing your sneakers before breakfast, etc), and a clear reward (e.g. a midday treat, the satisfaction of completing the run, etc).
• Cues can be almost anything, from a visual trigger to a time of day, an emotion, a sequence of thoughts, the company of particular people, etc.
• Routines can be incredibly complex or fantastically simple.
• Rewards can range from food or drugs that cause physical sensations, to emotional payoffs, such as the feelings of pride that accompany praise or self-congratulation.
• We know that a habit cannot be eradicated. Instead, it must be replaced. Most habits are most malleable when the golden rule is applied:
• To change a habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.
1. Use the same cue.
2. Provide the same reward.
3. Change the routine.
• Almost any behaviour can be transformed if the cue and reward stay the same.
• To understand your own habits, you need to identify the components of your habit loops. Once you’ve diagnosed the habit loop of a particular behaviour, you can look for ways to supplant old vices with new routines.
There are four steps to doing this:
1. Identify the routine
2. Experiment with rewards
3. Isolate the cue
4. Have a plan
Recap: All habits follow the loop of (A) cue, (B) routine, and (C) reward.
So, if you’re trying to figure out the cue for a habit, write down five things the moment the urge hits:
1. Where are you?
2. What time is it?
3. What’s your emotional state?
4. Who else is around?
5. What action preceded the urge?
Obviously, changing some habits is more difficult than this, but the framework is a good place to start.
Once you understand how a habit operates — once you diagnose the cue, routine and rewards — you gain power over it.
"A good curated idea should be like a girl's skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest."
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