Creating habits

This one is about blogging. Actually no, this is about the habit of blogging. Wait, let me try this again – this is about creating habits…for anything!

For the last few weekends, come rain or shine I have been taking the time out to add a post to my blog. The reason – I have made a commitment to myself that I will do that every weekend. And fixing a timeline (every weekend) helps me ensure that I do take the time out to write.

Charles Duhigg in his book ‘The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business’ explains the science behind habits. He talks about a neurological loop that is at the core of every habit, a loop that consists of – a cue, a routine and a reward. This loop can both help create good habits and change bad ones.

Let us look at the loop with respect to what I mentioned earlier – creating a habit to write a post every weekend. The cue in this case is the arrival of weekend. I have created a routine (I am still in the process of creating one) that I need to write every weekend. And the reward of course is the satisfaction of having added a post (and any comments that follow). If I had not identified a cue (weekend), I don’t believe I would have been able to create the routine (write regularly).

I had used this loop to change a bad habit a while ago, albeit I didn’t see it that way back then. Bejeweled Blitz. Heard of it? It is a game I found on Facebook a couple of years ago and was almost immediately addicted to it. I would play the game for hours and immediately afterwards feel guilty for having wasted so much time in playing a game. And then I would do it again a week later.

After a few guilt trips I decided it was time to change/break the habit. I would often start playing that game when I was bored (was not doing anything more exciting than Bejeweled) and then just keep playing. So the cue was ‘boredom’, the routine ‘playing long hours’. I altered the routine by setting myself a time limit for playing the game and followed that up with some reading, which to me felt like a reward. It worked! Yes, I will confess that there were still times when I played the game longer than I would have liked to, but those cases were few and far between.

‘The power of habits’ is a great book. I would highly recommend it if you are in the habit of reading (one of my ex-managers used to say – reading is a harmless hobby. Everyone should try it). In fact how about you create a new habit, a habit of reading…and start with that book? Could be a life-changer!

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