The Habit Trifecta - Cue, Routine and Reward

I needed a new audio book to listen to on the days I walk solo and honestly had no idea of what I wanted that to be. So I fired up my Libby App and checked out what my local library had available immediately. For some strange reason I was drawn to one call How Habits Work by Charles Duhigg.  HMMM.

Self-help books aren't my first choice. I am always concerned how much the author has actually researched the topic. Is this just their thoughts or a new system they created to sell? This time, there was something inside that gave me a push, so I took a leap of faith and borrowed it. I'm so glad I did.

I have struggled with procrastination my whole life - at the beginning of projects, house cleaning, sitting down to write and more. Years of trying different approaches have brought some improvement, but so far nothing that enlightened me as to the why of it all.  As I started listening to How Habits Work I realized this was a very scientific presentation on the subject and worried it would prove boring. It wasn't.

The book is filled with great stories offering examples from the past and moves forward in time at an easy pace. I am going to write a book review, and honestly am only 1/3 of the way through the book, so don't want to go into too much here. But the idea of looking at routines that do not serve me and changing them has hit a nerve. I needed to get my thoughts down and writing a blog will push me to follow through.

If you have a habit you want to change, current research shows the first step is to figure out the why that lurks behind this behavior - avoidance, desire, belief, etc. - and what the cue is that alerts your unconscious to start the routine you want to change. This can be as simple as needing physcial stimulation or boredom, to very complex avoidance strategies.  You also have to identify the reward you expect at the end. An easy example I have seen was a friend who smoked that lit up a cigarette every time she talked on the phone.  She didn't even think about it. 

We have many routines that make our days easier.  After I bath I always brush my teeth and comb my hair.  After I eat I always put my dishes in the dishwasher. These routines are done without thought and the reward is clean teeth, combed hair and no dirty dishes on the counter.  Have one you don't like - eating late at night, poor food choices, procrastination, drinking, gaming for hours - this is a way to approach it. But it all begins with understanding what is driving the desire, the cue that initiates it and the reward you expect. 

To help readers understand, the author gives real life examples that show if you take an existing Cue/Routine (a behavior you want to change) /Reward, you can change the routine so that the existing cue leads to a healthier new one, which will lead to the existing reward. This sounds so very complex, and it takes time and hard work. But after the many examples they give in the book, I understand the basic concept and think it has value for me. There is another part - belief - but wanted to start in this article with the basics.

I am going to spend some real time this next week looking at long term issues and identify two I think I can work on using this system. I'll let you know how I do.