Last year I had the goal to read at least one book every week. I learned a lot about the mind, building wealth, and how to improve various areas of my life that I thought needed some help. The following information is from my notes on the Book "The Power of Habits" by Charles Duhigg. The book is full of great examples and stories. Make sure you pick it up and give it a read to learn more.
Habits Are Created to save Brain Power
Talk about useful. At least when the habits work in our favor but the good news is that we are able to change these habits over time. Mindfully creating habits helps us reach our goals more quickly and with less effort because of the autopilot that kicks in. When this happens, we free up thinking power for more difficult issues and challenges. Like thinking about the day to come and what needs to be done while putting on your pants. When the pants part (if not optional) is on autopilot, we can spend mental angry on the more difficult task.
Habits Are Powerful yet Delicate
The saved brain power is fantastic and influential in helping us get a task done efficiently while allowing us to use our brain power for more challenging tasks. However, this power is also delicate. We all know that good habits we want to build are hard to do so but also super easy to break. While the opposite is true for the bad habits that we hate. The good news is that there are ways to form good practices out of the bad ones. It's called the cue, routine, reward cycle and ever habit has this exact framework.
The Cue Routine Reward Cycle
Every habit starts with a cue. This triggers the action that is performed within seconds of this cue. We can't change signals unless they are external triggers like seeing a bag of cookies. If the cue is external, we can improve our environment around us by not buying that bag of cookies or keeping them in a hard to reach place out of site. If the cues are internal or not apart of our environment, then the signal will always exist in some form. We can use this to our advantage by recognizing the cue and using some conscious energy to manipulate the routine that follows.
The routine is the actual event of the habit like putting your right (or left) leg into your pants before the other, washing your hands after using the restroom, or driving to work. That drive to work one is freaky when you can't remember the trip after parking at the office though. These actions are all triggered by the cue we mentioned earlier, and we can change them with a little effort. Let's say you always forget to floss after brushing your teeth but want to start. A great way to do that is to leave the cues that lead you to brush your teeth and even the brushing routine. But change the environment by setting the floss next to your brush in the morning. That way you can see and remember to floss. This will turn into a habit over time, and you'll get to a point where even if the floss is lost you will go out of your way to find some just to finish the newly formed habit. (Trust me it works, I can't sleep now without flossing my teeth.)
When building new habits or changing old ones, it's best to have a reward in place. All of our old habits have an award in some fashion and no matter how small that reward its still motivates our subconscious to perform that habit. Keep that old reward if you are working to replace a bad practice because it's much easier only to change the routine. The less friction, the better when making updates to our unconscious behaviors. If you are creating an entirely new habit with a new cue than find a reward that is not self-destructive. Giving ourselves cookies every time we complete the routine portion of the practice will not be in our best interest over time.