“People do not decide their future. They decide their habits and their habits decide their future” – F.M. Alexander
Habits are those neural circuits that you have grooved so strongly that they will execute without you even thinking about them, or perhaps even being aware that you are doing them at all! If you have good habits, they will protect you from many of the inherent problems with being human. If you have bad habits, they can do a significant amount of harm.
That means that habits are the most important neural circuits in your life and you should manage your habits closely. Managing your habits allows you to make yourself the person you want to be.
At its core, behavior change requires “focus and discipline over time”.
Habits are simple and powerful. You can read more about them in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, but in short,they are made up of 3 phases:
- Cue: A trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use
- Routine: What you do (can be physical, emotional, or mental)
- Reward: What you get out of it (which helps your brain figure out if this loop is worth remembering for the future)
In order to change a habit you need to do a little thinking about what is going on in your life and start to introduce very specific changes. Specifically, you can use the following four steps to change a habit:
- Identify the routine (what happens, step-by-step?)
- Experiment with rewards (what is it really? find a substitute)
- Isolate the cue (location, time, emotional state, other people immediately preceding action)
- Have a plan (what exactly will you do to re-engineer the routine/habit?)
In many respects, humans can be considered a collection of habits. And unfortunately, habits we like might fade over time and habits we’d rather avoid start creeping into our lives. I find it useful to check in every once in a while and do an inventory of my daily habits to see if it needs any maintenance.
Want to learn more?
Here are a few resources you can check out if you want to explore this idea further: