Sunday, June 10, 2012


I read this interesting book called "The Power of Habits" by Charles Duhigg.  About 40% of the things we do each day are based on habits, not deliberate actions or decisions but habits.  Our eating routines are based on habits.  We exercise based on habits.  Our work routines are based on habits.

How do you reshape habits?  Change is not always fast nor easy.  Any habit can be reshaped. 

At the core of every habit is a loop that consists of three parts: a cue, a routine and a reward.  The cue is the first part.  You get a get a cue, there is a routine or what can also be called a response and a reward at the end.

To reshape a habit you need to do the following:
Identify the routine
Experiment with rewards
Isolate the cue
Have a plan

An example I could use is that I indulge in a piece of chocolate several times a week about an hour after supper.   My routine is having the chocolate after supper.  So what is my cue?  It is boredom, wanting dessert, looking for a sugar fix or using the chocolate as a reward for the day?  And the reward?  It is the feeling of a blast of sugar, a distraction, the feeling of chocolate melting in my mouth?  To figure this out I need to experiment with the reward.  I need to figure out what cravings are driving this habit.  Which craving is driving my routine?  I can try different rewards including making a cup of tea, having gum, having some fresh berries, going for a walk around the block with the dog.  Doing different rewards also requires me to think about how I feel about having other rewards and if I still want that piece of chocolate after 15 minutes.  Doing this will help me isolate what I am really craving and why I desire the piece of chocolate.   

The next step is to identify the cue.  Almost all cues can be classed into five categories: location, time, emotional state, other people or immediately preceding action.  To identify the cue, you need to answer these five things when the urge hits to have the chocolate.  Once you figure out the cue you can shift the habit.  You can change to a better routine by planning for the cue and choosing a behaviour.   You can find a new routine.  Once you develop a new routine it becomes a habit.

If you are looking for a good book to read, I recommend Charles Duhigg's book.  He also talks about companies and how they have used the power of cues and rewards to shape our routines.

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