Habits in Your Mind – Part 2

Last week, we dug into habits.  I presented the idea of the habit loop, and we explored the process.

Recall the Habit Loop

We pick up a cue, our minds execute a routine, and we get a reward.  That’s the idea.  Habits seem to be straight forward enough.  But as with most things that seem obvious, there’s a hidden secret to making the process work.


Procter and Gamble (P&G) knows a few things about anticipation.  They study it, as do other large corporations, specifically to sell us more or better products.  Actually they invent products we didn’t even know we wanted, but that we gladly buy.  They’re responsible for Febreeze, Swiffer cleaners, Crest whitestrips, and many others.  P&G employs PhDs who study consumer’s habits and cravings.  The spend roughly a couple billion dollars on research yearly, and it makes them very successful.

P&G is able to do what they do so well because they understand that to get consumers to habitually use their products, those consumers must crave a reward.  P&G finds little quirks in our behavior that sometimes we aren’t even aware of.

They understand what makes a habit last.  We know the cue triggers a routine in the habit loop.  But it must also trigger our brains to crave the reward.  Without that “craving”, the habit won’t last.

What Happens In Our Brains

Think about why you exercise.  It may be for various reasons.  Perhaps you enjoy the burst of endorphins delivered that make you feel good.  Maybe its the added energy, or the desire to stay healthy and look good.

You’re not alone.  In studies, the majority of people report that they exercise at least several times a week because it makes them feel “good.”

So here’s what happens in the habit loop.  We cue ourselves to get to the gym for an hour workout.  I do this by laying my clothes out the night before.  Over time, without me even realizing it, my mind starts to recognize that cue and anticipate the reward.  Only when our brains start to crave the reward will we be on our way to a lasting habit.

Put It Into Action

We know how the habit loop works now.  Cue –> Routine –> Reward.  And this week, we understand that the cue must make us crave the reward in order for us to make the habit last.

Focus on the reward.  Rewards are very important.  Lets say I wanted to start reading 1 chapter from a book every night.  I desire to make this a habit.  Knowing what we know, here’s how I would set it up:

Cue: set a reminder on my phone for 9:20pm, reminder goes off

Routine: read 1 chapter from my book

Reward: make myself my favorite cup of tea, or the satisfaction of knowing I just improved myself by a little bit and will likely sleep better.  I’d need to find the reward powerful enough to make me crave it.

If this is a brand new habit, will this be perfect?  Probably not.  Some nights, I’ll ignore my reminder and watch tv or surf the net.  But over time, if I do this enough it will become automatic.  Eventually I won’t even need the reminder.  If the tea is my reward of choice, I’ll start to crave my glass of tea around 9pm and without much thought I’ll pick up my book and read a chapter to get it.

Replace the example with something you want to start doing.  Figure out the most powerful reward for you, and be patient.  Building habits aren’t effortless, but it’s achievable if you try.  Bite off one habit at a time, and when it’s automatic move on to another.  Make a habits list!  I love lists 🙂

Next week, we look at habit change.  We all have bad habits, so how do we course correct?  One thing goes without saying, we all need to be in the habit of doing better burpees.  Mathematical formula:

Better Burpees = Better Life

Am I right?

The O-Board Says…

10 min yoga hips/lowback

A. EMOTM for 5min
Acc 30 sec Isometric Hold
(chin-up hold)

3 Rounds for Time;
Run 400 m
10 DB Burpee Deadlift
10 DB Hang Clean
10 DB Push Press
Row 400 m

Posted by: Stets