We Are Our Habits – Part 1

When You Got Out of Bed This Morning

What did you do?  Do you remember?  I put my clothes on that I’d laid out last night, brushed my teeth, and headed to CPM to coach some smiling early AMers.  I do this most mornings.  In fact, I’ve done it enough that I don’t think about it while I’m doing it.

This is a habit.  Its the routine I have and I do it often enough that it’s engrained deep in my brain.  I like to think that all the choices and decisions I make on a daily basis are well thought out, deliberate, and tailored to the situation.  They’re not.  They’re habits, just like my morning routine.  You have some of the habits hanging around too.

The Habit Loop

At the very core of our habits, we perform the same thing over and over again.  This is called the habit loop.  It looks like this for my morning routine:

The Habit Loop

The Habit Loop

The Cue

Think of habits as auto-pilot for the brain.  Something has to turn the auto-pilot on.  That would be a cue.  In the gym we love cues.  We tell you “ELBOWS UP” when we front squat, and your brain tells you to get those elbows high.

Same thing here.  Cues can be internal or external.  An internal cue would be a thought, or an emotion.  An external cue would be my clothes waiting for me in the morning, or an alarm or reminder.

The Routine

This is what we do to get to our reward.  Why do I drink a cup of coffee?  To get the caffeine buzz of course!  Drink the coffee is behavior, head rush is the reward.  The routine can be physical (as with the coffee), mental (committing something to memory), or emotional.

The Reward

Sometimes I feel as though the reward is all I care about or notice.  Depending on the reward, my brain will decide if the habit loop is worth saving.  If the reward is good, I’m going to remember the loop so I can get the reward again.  If the reward sucks, DELETE.

Rewards come in physical, cognitive, or emotional states.

What’s Really Interesting

Computer programmers write blocks of code that handle redundant tasks over and over to simplify processes. Guess what? Your brain is an amazing computer. The brain knows this secret too. The brain’s basal ganglia stores repetitive tasks for us. As behaviors we repeat become more habitual, brain activity decreases (we think less).

Why? To free up resources for more important things. When we build a habit, our brain becomes more efficient because the pattern in the habit loop takes over. This leaves us brainpower to worry about those “more important things.”

Do you drive the same route to work every morning? Have you ever been driving that route, but not going to work, and missed a turn because you are heading for the office? That’s the autopilot of habit, and it is an amazing and beautiful thing.

Lets Dig Into It

Over the next few posts, I’ll explore habits.  We’ll look at creating new habits, changing existing ones, and my favorite “keystone” habits.

What are some of your habits?  Good ones?  Bad ones?  Embarrassing ones?

The O-Board Says…

A. 21/18/15/12/9/6/3
DB Push Press
DB Weighted Step Ups

B. 3 Rounds for Time
max cals on rower (1 partner)
25 Wall Balls (1 partner)

both partner row & wall ball = 1 round

Posted by: Stets