Oftentimes habits are seen as negative as we think about all the bad habits we have (or think we have). That aside, habits are necessary. What if you had to actually make a decision regarding whether to brush your teeth today? Or had to think about each step in the process of backing your car out of the driveway like you did when you were a beginner? If our lives weren’t routine we’d be exhausted from all the willpower needed to navigate through the day.
When we encounter a new task, our brains light up as we navigate the unknown. The more we do the task, the less brainpower it takes. Because of this, on our commute we’re able to think about what we need to get done at work for the day instead of paying attention to each driving maneuver we make on the way there.
Any task that converts to a habit draws less on our willpower, leaving more for us to use in other ways. So, how to create a new habit? According to The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, it’s as simple and as difficult as this:
Want to exercise more? Choose a cue, such as going to the gym as soon as you wake up, and a reward, such as a smoothie after each workout. Then think about the smoothie, or about the endorphin rush you’ll feel. Allow yourself to anticipate the reward. Eventually, that craving will make it easier to push through the gym doors every day.
Cravings are what drive habits. And figuring out how to spark a craving makes creating a new habit easier.
It’s this cycle of “Cue – Routine – Reward,” topped off with craving the reward, which fuels all our habits. Good or bad.
Finally, we need to believe it can be done. Without this important piece, our new habits fall apart when we encounter stress.
Create a cue. Do the routine. Reward yourself. And believe.