How habits work

According to Charles Duhigg…

“The difficult thing about studying the science of habits is that most people, when they hear about this field of research, want to know the secret formula for quickly changing any habit. If scientists have discovered how these patterns work, then it stands to reason that they must have also found a recipe for rapid change, right?

If only it were that easy.

It’s not that formulas don’t exist. The problem is that there isn’t one formula for changing habits. There are thousands.

Individuals and habits are all different, and so the specifics of diagnosing and changing the patterns in our lives differ from person to person and behaviour to behaviour. Giving up cigarettes is different than curbing overeating, which is different from changing how you communicate with your spouse, which is different from how you prioritize tasks at work. What’s more, each person’s habits are driven by different cravings.

As a result, this book doesn’t contain one prescription. Rather, I hoped to deliver something else: a framework for understanding how habits work and a guide to experimenting with how they might change. Some habits yield easily to analysis and influence. Others are more complex and obstinate, and require prolonged study. And for others, change is a process that never fully concludes.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t occur. Each chapter in this book explains a different aspect of why habits exist and how they function. The framework described in this appendix is an attempt to distill, in a very basic way, the tactics that researchers have found for diagnosing and shaping habits within our own lives. This isn’t meant to be comprehensive. This is merely a practical guide, a place to start. And paired with deeper lessons from this book’s chapters, it’s a manual for where to go next.

Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.

There is a framework for making habits work to your advantage…

  1. Identify the routine
  2. Experiment with rewards
  3. Isolate the cue
  4. Have a plan

Next Article: Step 1 – “Identify the routine”


Next Steps:

  1. Would you like to behave your way from bad to good habits? The ABT Habit Journal is an eight week self completing course with explanatory text, tips advice & guidance, both within the book itself as well as online in the members support area.
  2. Read more about The Habit

Hat Tip: This article is an extract from “The power of habit” by Charles Duhigg. If you are interested in buying the book you can do so on Amazon