The Habit Loop

The habit loop consists of three elements: a cue, a routine, and a reward. These elements help understand how to change bad habits or form better ones.

The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhhig, was one of the few books I read the year it was published – and it shares the habit loop.

This book was given to me as a gift during a corporate Christmas party in 2012.

I remember reading the book immediately and feeling like I learned a lot from it. I enjoyed it so much that I kept it to re-read, and I ended up reading it again in 2016 when I bought Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhhig and decided to read the author’s two books in order.

When you begin developing a self-management system for your life or simply attempting anything new, you must allow this system to establish roots and habits in your life, which will never be accomplished in less than 100 days.

Habits take time to form and require a great deal of dedication and consistency to produce any results. It is not a simple process. That is why it is important to learn about the habit loop.

The Habit Loop

The habit loop (in our brains) consists of three stages: cue, routine, and reward.

Everything begins with the cue, which is the stimulation that causes the brain to go into automatic pilot and indicates the habit loop that should always be employed (brushing your teeth, for example).

This leads to routine, which is how we carry out our tasks, whether physically, cognitively, or emotionally.

We perform all of this in pursuit of a reward, which helps the brain decide whether or not to save this loop for the future.

Changing a habit loop demands training and dedication, which is the most significant factor in an individual’s success. 

The Cue

A habit cue might be anything that starts the behavior. 

Cues are most commonly classified as a place, a time of day, other people, an emotional state, or an immediately preceding action. 

The aroma from the coffee shop downstairs may push someone to purchase a latte. 

Another potent trigger is the music played by wandering ice cream vans. 

The cue instructs the brain to enter automatic processing mode, and resisting the cue requires effort as opposed to gaining gratification from obeying the cue.

The Routine

The most visible aspect of a habit loop is its routine: it is the behavior you want to modify (for example, smoking or nail-biting) or reinforce (like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or drinking water instead of snacking).

The Reward

The reward is the reason the brain determines the preceding actions are important enough to remember for the future. 

The reward reinforces the desired action, increasing the likelihood that you will repeat that behavior in the future. 

The reward can be anything, from something physical (such as chocolate) to something intangible (such as a half-hour of television) to even anything with no inherent worth other than the fact that it is provided.

And everyone who wishes to alter a habit must first learn to adjust their own habit loop, change their cues, and train in new routines to acquire new rewards.

Because people and habits fluctuate, the nuances of identifying and modifying patterns in our life vary from person to person and behavior to behavior. Furthermore, different desires drive each person’s habits.

As a result, there isn’t a single prescription in this book. Rather, I aimed to provide something else: a framework for understanding how habits operate and a roadmap for experimenting with how they may change. Some behaviors are readily analyzed and influenced. Others are more difficult and stubborn, necessitating much investigation. 

I think you can also go deep into that reading with the original Charles Duhigg book or the author’s explanation about habits.

I am incredibly grateful that you have taken the time to read this post.

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