How to hack your habits to achieve your goals
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle
Welcome to our series on building an effective daily routine.
Before we get into specifics, we think it’s important to focus on how exactly we can create a habit.
We all have habits that we’d like to build. If it’s going to pilates five times a week, meditating 10 minutes a day, stop drinking coffee, or reading more books - we all have something we want to add or improve in our daily lives.
The problem is, these habits we want to form are big enough that excuses are easy to make. The dialogue begins - “I had a big day at work, so I’ll go to pilates tomorrow” . Resistance is too high and the excuses we create protect us from feeling bad about not building the habit and achieving our goals. So, the habit never gets built.
The solution is to build the habit first.
To do so, we’re going to use this framework: The Habit Loop.
According to research from Duke University, more than 40% of the actions people perform every day aren’t due to decision making, but habits.
This means that almost half the time, you’re doing something not because you consciously choose to do it, but because you’re following a neurological loop in your brain.
There are 3 components of this loop:
A cue: This is the trigger that tells your brain to start the habit. Example: You get a message notification on your phone.
A routine: This can be physical, mental or emotion - it is the habit that follows the cue. Example: You open the message.
A reward: This helps your brain to figure out if this loop is worth remembering - is there a benefit or is it rewarding? Example: You get to know what the message is about.
Over time, this loop becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges.
Let’s put this into practice. If you want to begin something - let’s say begin pilates classes;
Choose a cue - wake up
Choose a routine - get up and go to pilates class
Choose a reward - make yourself avo toast after + the endorphins will make you feel great
Okay let’s do another - you want to drink more water;
Choose a cue - make a cup of coffee
Choose a routine - fill up your water bottle and finish it with the coffee
Choose a reward - listen to your favourite podcast / allow yourself a 10 minute insta scroll / you feel great being hydrated
As we all know, forming new habits is hard. Just because you’re telling your brain that there’s a reward, doesn’t meant the habit will stick. It only really sinks in when—through enough repetition—your brain comes to crave the reward.
Countless studies have shown that only when your brain starts expecting the reward, that it will become automatic to change into your pilates gear every morning. The cue, in addition to triggering a routine, must also trigger a craving for the reward to come.
But there’s a final key ingredient: Belief.
“For a habit to stay changed, people must believe that change is possible. And most often, that belief only emerges with the help of a group,” Duhigg
Groups create accountability and belief—key components in helping us stick with new habits. Therefore, to continue your pilates classes, you could join a studio with your friends. Going with a group will create positive reinforcement, which will make those earlier morning easier to deal with. If you want to drink more water, get another friend on board, or start a water challenge (pinterest has some good ones).
If you can’t create a real life group, join one online or even create your own via instagram or a blog.
What’s a habit you want to create in 2019?