When do you wake up in the morning? Do you snooze your alarm? Which hand do you use to pick up your brush? These are all examples of habits. It is highly likely that the hand you used today to pick up your brush, you will use that tomorrow too, unconsciously.
But when you started to learn how to brush, chances are you used both your hands to pick up the brush or had to decide which hand to choose. Over the years, your repetitive actions made your work easier and automated.
If we are to define habits, it would be the small decisions we make or actions we perform unconsciously and automatically. Habits exist to lessen the workload of our brain. Otherwise our brain would always be overwhelmed with so many decisions to make all the time and so many data to analyse every moment.
How habits are intertwined within your life-
For most part of the day, we carry out the same chores that we have done for so many days. According to a research in Duke University, 40-45% of our daily works are done out of habits.
They say, habits define our characters which define our destiny. Good habits like working out, eating healthy, waking up early, finishing our tasks on time- can lead us to a bright future. On the other hand procrastinating, smoking and other bad habits can destroy us.
So we know that if we want to be fit, we need to implement the good habits like hitting the gym everyday and eating healthy. But we cannot just write a code of a habit and compile it inside our brain. We need to repeat the work again and again. There is a popular belief that we need 21 days to build a habit. But that is not true always. It can take 66 days even 286 days depending on the complexity of the habit.
But there is always an easier path. As we mentioned before, habits create our character and our self-image. If we manage to adjust our self-image at first, changing our habit will be a lot easier.
Let me explain. If you tend to delay your duties and procrastinate, you think of yourself as a procrastinator. You are likely to think that maintaining a timetable is hard which leads to delay in change of habits. But if you convince your brain, “I am a very punctual person. I always complete my work on time”, your brain pushes you to maintain this image and not let you procrastinate anymore. Popular entrepreneur and motivational speaker Sandeep Maheswari used this method to quit smoking. Whenever someone offered him a cigarette, instead of saying, “sorry but I am trying to quit”, he simply said “ You see, I do not like the smell of the cigarette“.
Parts of a habit loop
These are for the greater changes in personality that you may want to change. For altering any regular or random habit, you have to address the core of the habit loops. According to Charles Duhigg, the writer of “the power of habit”, each and every habit has three parts-
It is the first part which enables a habit loop. A trigger can be a place, time or an emotion which remind you to do something. Let’s say, if you have a habit of watching the television after returning home from work or college, maybe the time or untying the shoe will trigger the habit of watching the television. Most of the time, it is hard to identify the trigger. But when a trigger occurs, you somehow feel an urge to follow the habit loop.
A loop is the main part of the habit loop. When you perform a task repetitively, your subconscious mind finds the shortest path to do the task and eventually you start following that path. A loop of the habit decides if the habit is good or bad for you. You may not feel the trigger always, but you can feel the loop if you are attentive enough. Like, you may not control what makes you smoke, but you know when you are smoking.
Reward is the final phase of habit, and also the cause of developing the habit loop. Reward makes you fall in the habit loop again and again. If you watch television every night, the reward is the satisfaction you get after watching your favourite show. Your habit loop exits as your reward phase satisfies the need that triggered your loop.
We can see that all the branded shops and restaurants have specific structures for every store all around the world. This is to generate a habit loop. If one day, you feel hungry and go to Mc-Donalds, the food and ambience will soothe you. Then your subconscious mind will note that Mc-Donalds is a great place for your hungry stomach. And then on, whenever you will see Mc-Donalds, your habit loop will trigger and if you do order something there, which is your habit loop, you will get the satisfaction and fulfilment of your hunger as your reward. Detecting and using habit loops are great marketing strategies used by most of the global businesses. That is why, shopping malls have such cool and organised halls with nice music playing in the background. The ambience make you happy but your mind interprets it wrongly so that you may think that shopping makes you feel good.
How to change a habit-
According to “the power of habit”, if you want to change a habit, you first have to find out these three parts of your habit. From the previous example, if you want to change your habit of watching television at night, you first have to find out the proper reward. If it is the enjoyment, you can replace it by listening to music or playing an indoor game. If the reward is refreshment, you may have a talk with your family members for an hour.
- James Clear in his book “Atomic habits”, on the other hand, focuses on the overall change of lifestyle for a better future. He suggests not to emphasize on the outcome but the process. You have to change a tiny bit of your daily habit, gradually but steadily, like cleaning your room and walking for 5 minutes more, for a steady success.
In short, recognise your faulty habits, visualize where you need to see yourself in the future and work on your daily lives. A more efficient and brilliant version is waiting on the other side of your bad habits.
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