Lifehack: How To Learn/Unlearn Habits

September 17, 2016

Lifehack: How To Learn/Unlearn Habits

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." Aristotle

Success in life is truly a sum of everything we do each day. And every day, we make countless decisions and perform countless little acts. If we want excellence for ourselves, and you should of course aim for your version of excellence, then we must understand how our brains are motivated to undertake helpful behaviours and how we can learn and unlearn habits.

Your brain is lazy (no offence). It wants to translate behaviours and tasks into habits, so it can perform them without utilising much brain power (saving power for more challenging things). Habits, then, are kind of like the brain's way of automation, for improved productivity and efficiency. Makes sense. However, sometimes the brain automates unhelpful behaviours, with difficult habits to break as a result.

If we can understand how habit development works, we can learn new helpful habits, and unlearn the ones that aren't doing us any favours. Let's take a look at the Habit Loop, scientifically explained by Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit (recommended for some life reading).

Step 1: Reminder (or Cue)

Triggers in our environment, when repeated, tell our brains to activate a behaviour automatically. It can be a visual cue or an act, which has taken place many time previously, trigging a particular act.  

Step 2: Routine

Following the Reminder, the behaviour which has been automated is the Routine. This is the actual physical, mental, or emotional behaviour or act which is either good/bad or helpful/unhelpful.

Step 3: Reward

In order to encourage the brain to activate a Routine following a Reminder, a Reward helps the brain figure out if the particular loop is worthwhile remembering or not. As these three steps are repeated in the future, it becomes more and more automatic - habitual.

So how can we use the Habit Loop? Depending on whether you want to break a bad habit, or learn a new good habit, you can design each Habit Loop with your individual goals in mind and repeat over time until it becomes automatic. 

For example, let's say you want to start exercising in the mornings. Your Routine is therefore 'putting on workout clothes, going to the gym or your designated spot in your home, and performing the workout'. Your Reward can be a nice shower and breakfast following the workout. And your Reminder can be seeing your workout clothes next to your bed when you wake up. 

Designing the new habit is the easy part. For it to become a habit that sticks, you have to go through the loop repeatedly. It is said it takes about 28 days for a new habit to be formed.

Some helpful tools are available within our Dream Design Do kit (download your free copy here), including the habits and habit tracking worksheets.

Keep us in the loop by using #upandatem on social, and tagging us in snaps of your habit making and achieving.  

/ TheNewExecutive




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