How to Change Habits – A Proven System

Did you brush your teeth or get dressed first thing in the morning? What did you eat for breakfast? What did you do when you came home from work?

All these are habits; routines repeated regularly and done without thinking. It’s difficult to change most habits, which you’ve probably experienced trying to stop watching YouTube, smoking or eating delicious cookies. Here’s how to change them all. 

How Habits Work: The Habit Loop

To change your habits, you’ve got to know how they work. Every habit has three distinct parts:

  • The Cue: The trigger which sets the habit in motion.
  • The Routine: The actions the habit consists of.
  • The Reward: Something which motivates you to continue the habit.

Let’s take brushing my teeth as an example; the cue is coming into the bathroom after eating breakfast. It could also be a specific time or seeing the toothpaste. My routine is to put on too much toothpaste and brush my teeth. My reward is clean teeth and delicious toothpaste. 

How to Change Habits

The key to changing a habit is to find its habit loop. Then changing its routine, while keeping the same reward. This is because you often crave the reward, so just trying to not do the habit won’t work. 

To find the cue, write what you do before the routine. Then identify the reward. This often isn’t clear, because routines can have multiple plausible rewards. Sometimes they all apply.

The habit I’m trying to change is to stop watching Netflix when I come home from work. I came up with these wants which watching Netflix fullfills: 

  • Thirst for entertainment
  • Relaxation after work
  • Doing something else while eating (Which already is a habit in my life, it feels really weird to just eat)

Then I tried out better routines which still provide the same rewards to find out which one I craved. I came up with this routine: listen to humor shows on the way home from work and while eating. Then take a nap, falling down dead in bed. It worked, and I’ve now succesfully changed my habit. 

Thanks for reading, and have an awesome day.

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