The Five Rules of Behavior Change:

An effective strategy for behavior change needs to address one or more of the components of the habit loop. The more of them you engage, the better your chances of success. The most effective strategies encourage or discourage the habit at the beginning. You won’t reinforce a craving if you remove the temptation or cannot perform the habit. You cannot make the Reward of a good habit more satisfying if you do not do it.
The First Rule of Behavior Change, Shrink the Commitment, is the most effective way to create a good habit. Shrink the new behavior down so small in the beginning that even on your absolute worst day, you could keep your habit streak alive. We don’t rise to the level of our aspirations; we sink to the level of our standards. Set the bar so low, you cannot fail, but remember that bar is a minimum requirement. You can always do more when you feel motivated to do so, but never less. Continue reading The Five Rules of Behavior Change:

A Practical Framework for Behavior Change

He reverses these four laws to break a bad habit.  Make the Cue invisible, the Reward unattractive, the Routine harder to execute, and the Reward unsatisfying. He does a fantastic job of providing practical suggestions on how to accomplish each law.[i] James Clear’s book complements Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. The Power of Habit helps us to understand habits, but it isn’t a manual for behavior change. Atomic Habits fulfills that role, providing actionable strategies in a simple to follow format. This book has an even narrower focus. It seeks to combine the strategies of behavior change with tactics designed to produce a leaner fitter body. “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Sun Tzu Continue reading A Practical Framework for Behavior Change

The Golden Rule of Habit Change

Cues in our environment trigger a response. We need to pre-decided what our new response will be. Our Rider cannot hesitate to guide the Elephant down a new path, instead of performing the well-condition one. We must give our Elephant a new way forward. Instead of telling ourselves not to do something, we need to have an alternative action ready to go. Telling ourselves not to do something, fixates our mind on doing it. When we attempt to suppress a thought, we make things worse. We begin to fixate on it instead. Psychologists call this Ironic Theory. Continue reading The Golden Rule of Habit Change

How to Break a Bad Habit

I am as vulnerable to bad habits as anyone. On the weekends, I typically indulge in a drink or two, but a year ago, I developed the habit of drinking every night. It began with me having a drink after an unusually stressful day; then it progressed to an everyday occurrence. What was once a weekend ritual had become a nightly one. At the core … Continue reading How to Break a Bad Habit

Why Habits are so Powerful and Potentially Dangerous

Our brain relies on routines stored in our primitive brain to conserve mental energy, but it needs to decide which Routine to perform and when to perform it. The initial spike in brain activity is the rat determining which Routine to perform. Once the rat decides, it’s decision centers quiet, their basal ganglia take over, navigating the maze quicker than when it was slowed down by conscious thought. At the end of the exercise, when the rat sees the reward, the brain jolts itself awake. It makes sure that the pattern unfolded as anticipated. Habits are a four-step process. First, there is a Cue that stimulates a Craving and triggers a Routine. Then there is a conditioned Routine, stored in our basal ganglia, that we execute to satisfy our Craving. Finally, there is a Reward that reinforces the habit by causing our brain to judge the routine worth remembering and repeating. This explains the pattern of brain activity the researchers observed, and it helps explain why habits are so valuable and potentially dangerous. Ann Graybiel, one of the scientists who oversaw many of the basal ganglia experiments, said, “Habits never really disappear. They’re encoded into the structures of our brain, and that’s a huge advantage for us because it would be awful if we had to relearn how to drive after every vacation. The problem is that your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits, and so if you have a bad one, it’s always lurking there, waiting for the right cues and rewards.[i] “If a learned pattern remains in the brain after the behavior is extinguished, maybe that’s why it’s so difficult to change a habit. It is as though somehow, the brain retains a memory of the habit context, and this pattern can be triggered if the right habit cues come back,” Graybiel said. “This situation is familiar to anyone who is trying to lose weight or to control a well-engrained habit. Just the sight of a piece of chocolate cake can reset all those good intentions.”[ii] Continue reading Why Habits are so Powerful and Potentially Dangerous