The Power of Habits

We all do things, things that we don’t necessarily think about or even recognize that we do. These are our habits. These habits, so ingrained into our routine and daily life, are almost inescapable. In this tutorial, I’m going to discuss what habits are and why they have so much power.

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 Habits 101

Habits are extremely powerful, and we all have them. For instance, we all have the order we get dressed in the morning. Do you put your socks on before or after your pants? Do you brush your teeth before or after you are fully dressed?

These, and many other habits create your daily life and your daily routine. Your day is just a collection of various habits created for different reasons at different times. Understanding what habits are, how they are formed, and how you can change them are at the core of harnessing the power of habits.

What Are Habits?

Habits are a huge part of our life, but what exactly are they? Everyone always talks about habits and certain habits you need to break, but rarely is what they are discussed.

Habits are essentially thought patterns that are used in behavior often over time. They are used so often, in thought or behavior, that they become automatic reactions to certain stimuli. The automation of habits can make them almost invisible to us, but maybe not to others.

How Habits Are Formed?

Habits are formed through a three-step neurological pattern that involves a cue, a routine, and a reward.

A cue is the stimuli that causes your brain to react. It can be receiving a text notification, waking up in the morning, or a certain sound. It triggers a certain behavior.

A routine is what we often consider to be the habit itself. For example, a routine could be that you check your text messages immediately after receiving a notification. Or it could be that as soon as you wake up in the morning, you go to brush your teeth.

A reward is what happens after the action of the habit is completed. It is generally a positive aspect, or something that benefits you from executing the behavior. If you check your text messages in response to the notification, you have the benefit of knowing what the other person texted right away. If you brush your teeth immediately after waking up, you may maintain good oral health and not forget to brush your teeth.

Habits with immediate rewards are easier to notice than habits with rewards in the long term. For example, the habit of checking your text messages may be easier to recognize as a habit than, say, brushing your teeth at the same point in your daily routine.

Powerful Habits

Habits become so powerful because they become automated. We may not even recognize the cue at all. Sometimes we don’t receive the cue very often, so we don’t associate a certain behavior as a habit. Or sometimes we are aware of the cue and the behavior, but we don’t understand why we are doing it. 

All these things are important to address when harnessing the power of habits. If you want to use the power of habits to improve your life, you need to become aware of the cues, routines, and rewards of your daily life.

Try keeping a journal of different things that you notice. You will not become aware of all of your habits overnight, but it is always a good exercise to keep track of what tasks have become automated in your life.

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