Tips on how to break a REALLY BAD habit

So for this blog, I'd like to talk about habits.


Right now I’m reading Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit.


The book's premise is based upon the "habit loop," behaviors first identified and described by MIT researchers.


 The power of habit wipebook whiteboard notebook and dry erase


As Duhigg's appendix to his book describes, the habit loop involves a three-step process: 1) the cue; 2) the routine; and finally, 3) the reward.


The author offers this interesting theory: The main reason why we do most of the things that we do is that our actions fall within this cue-action-reward loop.


And here's the really interesting part: Duhigg provides overwhelming evidence to suggest that a habit cannot be eradicated -- it must be replaced.


Duhigg suggests this GOLDEN RULE of habit replacement when we really want to change a bad habit or routine:

Example A: If you want to quit smoking, figure out a new or different routine that will satisfy the cravings that are  presently filled by cigarettes.

Example B: This example comes from Duhigg's own experience. Suppose you want to lose weight. After some "habit studying," you discover that you leave your desk each day and head to the cafeteria in the desperate and fattening quest for a chocolate chip cookie.



Habit loop wipebook whiteboard notebook dry erase


TO STOP THIS BAD HABIT, Duhigg suggests, you deliberately go through a series of replacement routines with less fattening rewards. Eventually, you settle into the habit of walking outside to the local fruit market to buy and eat a few fresh apples.


Here's the thing, though: Breaking a habit once it is formed isn’t that easy.


If that were the case, everyone could quit smoking, quit drinking, and easily lose weight just by substituting one routine for another, right?


Unfortunately a few other key ingredients are required. And if you want to change a habit FOR GOOD, you must indeed find an alternative routine. Your odds of success increase dramatically when you commit to changing that routine.


Belief wipebook whiteboard notebook and dry erase 


BELIEF is essential. And it becomes more powerful when supported by a community. For example, think about the communal impact of AA groups, running groups, or even weight loss groups. 


As we all know, these efforts are all self-directed.


So here's Duhigg's theoretical framework, amplified in the above-linked appendix to his book: 1) Identify the routine; 2) Experiment with rewards; 3) Isolate the cue; 4) Have a plan.


There you have it: Change is possible. Substitute the action when you sense the craving. Reward yourself. Believe in the cause whole-heartedly. And find support in friends or a group when the going gets though.


Go ahead and try this variation of Duhigg's theory: 

1) Grab your Wipebook and identify your own bad habit. Instead of Duhiggs's example of desperately seeking out a chocolate chip cookie daily, describe your own routine that you want to change.

2) Next, write out what triggers your habit. Is it sugar or hunger, as in Duhigg's example?

3) Lastly, write out a list of adjustments in your habits that result in a healthier reward. (Duhigg made a series of adjustments in order to replace the deadly quest for that chocolate chip cookie. The final adjustment was a walk to the fruit market to purchase apples.)


Then: change your habit.


Wipebook: Make it happen.