• June 20th, 2019
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Tiny changes, remarkable results


It is widely believed that our habits impact our productivity, financial security, and happiness. At the core of each habit is the habit loop. In this edition we continue to elaborate on why habits exist and how they work, including some understanding of the habit loop.

In his book: “The power of habit”, Charles Duhigg shares more light on the habit loop, a neurological circle that governs any habit.  The habit loop consists of three basic steps, namely the cue, the routine and the reward. The cue is literally anything that triggers the habit, and can be a feeling, thought, location, specific time of day or the company of certain people. You either resist or follow the cue. 

The second part is the routine, which is considered the most obvious element of the habit and is the behaviour you want to change (consuming too much sugar) or want to reinforce (going to the gym). The third part, the reward, is the part that determines if a particular action (habit) is worth repeating in the future. Let’s use Duhigg’s morning coffee habit loop as an example: He wakes up in the morning (the cue), feels instantly inspired to drink a cup of coffee (the habit), and immediately afterwards feels great and ready for the day (the reward). The reward (feeling great) is what reinforces the behavior (drinking coffee) every time he encounters the cue (waking up). At this point, you may want to analyze your own habit loops.

Although it is evident that the effects of small habits multiply over time, many people dismiss small changes because they don’t seem to matter very much in the moment. This is in particular true for people who aim at establishing healthy habits. In another book, “Atomic habits”, the author, James Clear, says that just as money multiplies through interest, habits become stronger as we repeat them. Initially, a small habit seems to be insignificant on any given day; yet the impact it delivers over months and years can be enormous. It is only when we look back two, five, or ten years later that the value of good habits (healthy eating), and the cost of bad ones (smoking) becomes strikingly apparent. Clear says if you can get just 1 percent better each day, you’ll end up with results that are nearly 37 times better after one year. 

Conversely, if you repeat one percent errors day after day, by replicating poor decisions or duplicating tiny mistakes, small choices become a composite of toxic results. Remember we said it takes sixty-six days for a new habit to form in the previous edition? The key here is consistency, whether it is for the good or the bad of a habit. It is crucial for us to know how habits work and how to design them to our liking and benefit. 

From the above, it is quite clear that there is a science to the forming or breaking of habits, and a very small shift in the right direction can lead to many meaningful changes. Technically, time can be our ally (for good habits) or our enemy (for bad habits). The habit loop is powerful and hardwired into our brains and can be seen as a double-edged sword. Bad habits can cut us down just as easily as good habits can build us up. Do you want to avoid the dangerous half of the blade? Unfortunately, it is a decision that only you can make. I would hope that, given the above, it will be a well informed decision with a positive reward. 


New Era Reporter
2019-04-08 10:14:42 2 months ago

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