How to Reap the Benefits of Habits in Your Life

A few months ago I attended a presentation by Charles Duhigg, author of the book The Power of Habit. Although I had read his book before, I wanted to update myself on habits, a topic that fascinates and intrigues me.\r\n\r\nI wasn’t disappointed. His presentation reinforced the key idea that I had taken away from his book, which he calls “the habit loop.” If this sequence is repeated enough times, a new habit can be formed.\r\n\r\n7-25-en\r\n\r\nLet me demonstrate this concept with an example from his book. If you want to get into the habit of running first thing in the morning, you need to start with a “cue,” which could be leaving your jogging shoes next to your bed so you do not miss them when you wake up. This would trigger a running “routine.” The “reward” could be the endorphins, or “feeling good” sensation, after running.\r\n\r\nThis may sound way too simple to you. How can we increase the odds that a new habit is indeed formed? The author suggests having the “cue” generate a craving for the reward. For instance, if lacing your shoes can make you crave the endorphins or any other reward attached to the jogging routine, then you are raising the probability of success.\r\n\r\nIn my case, the way I created the habit of running almost every day was different. My “cue” was the alarm clock going off in the morning and the reminder that I had already committed (paid) to run a half-marathon. The running “routine” had a built-in reward: making sure I could cover the 13.1 mile distance of the race. Completing the training session became the short-term “reward”; finishing the race was the long-term “reward.”\r\n\r\nThe benefit of this experience to me was that, once the habit was formed, I started adding other rewards that strengthened it: improving my race time, feeling good and alert after running, keeping my weight down, and showing improved blood test results.\r\n\r\nI invite you to consider this habit loop as you identify an area of your life for which you wish to create a new habit. I welcome your reactions and examples.\r\n\r\nPercy M. Cannon\r\nAuthor, Consultant, Facilitator & Coach\r\

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