Life-hack Habits

Given that we're coming to the end of this year, I'm looking ahead and planning for some of the goals that I want to achieve in 2018. 

But before I pen down these New Year resolutions, which will take a lot of efforts to reach, I'm looking at some of the scientific approach to keep these resolutions by making it a habit, something akin to "life-hack habits". 

In order to do that, I've decided to understand better about how habits are being formed, and I remembered a book that I had read quite a while ago, "The Power of Habit".

Power of Habit
Time to make it into practical steps to keep good habits and replace bad ones with good ones. Sounds simple enough but while the recipe of formulas are there, the problem is that there isn't one formula for changing habits. There are thousands. 

Every individual and habits are different, and so the diagnosis and ways to identify and change the pattern in our lives differ from person to person and behavior to behavior. For example, it is different for a smoker who wants to give up cigarettes and a obese who wants to curb overeating habits. To make matters worse, everyone's habits are driven by different cravings.

A framework to identify these cravings or drivers of our daily habits are important. Because for a habit to change, one has to target the source, and not the behavior or habits. You can't overcome the habits of slacking on your couch, smoking and other bad habits without understanding what causes you to do what you do.

Life-hack Habits

It will be difficult to identify the source at first glance but it is easier to understand the "habits" that you want to change. The routine that keeps the habit ingrained in your daily lifestyle regardless of your deep desire to change. To understand this, take a look at a pathological gamblers. Regardless of how he wants to make a change, most ended up back into the gambling path as soon as they are put into a certain conditions, such as attending an event nearby a casino etc. For us to find or hack the path to change our habits, we have to find the roots that triggered our certain habits. 

1) Identify your habits/routines

Of course, knowing your habits like biting your fingernails or smoking is important but it is not enough. We need to know the components of this habits, break it down into the routines that happened, by figuring out the habit loop. 

MIT Research on habits has discovered a neurological loop at the core of every habit, a loop that consists of three parts: a cue, a routine and a reward. 

So, whenever you go to smoke, ask yourselves questions like what are the cue for this routine? Is it hunger? Is it boredom? Is it stress? Or is it something that you do while you are with certain friends? or you need a break before plunging into another task? And what's the reward? The smoking itself? The change of scenery? The temporary distraction? The feel good factor from the nicotine intake? 

And to find out all these, you will need to do some experiments.

2) Experiment what satisfies cravings

To figure our what cravings or cues that trigger certain routines, you must experiment with what satisfies cravings. For example, when you have the urge to go smoke, adjust your routine so it delivers a different reward. For instance, instead of going for a smoke, go for a cup of coffee with a friend. The next day, go and talk to a friend in the pantry instead of heading for a smoke. 

The idea: What you choose to do instead of going for a smoke? The point is to test different results to determine which craving is driving your routine or habit. Are you craving for the nicotine itself or is it the distraction from work? Or is to distress? As you test with different options, it is important to jot down on a piece of paper the first three things that come to mine when you are done with those routines? They have to be something that you feel at that point of time...could be emotions, thoughts or even drawings if you are prone to the creative side. Then set an alarm clock fifteen minutes later, and ask if you still have the cravings to smoke.

With these experiments, you will be able to find out what is it that you are really craving for. 

3) Isolate the cue

Knowing what rewards satisfy your cravings and the habits are crucial but it is even more important to be able to isolate and identify the cue to the automatic reaction known as habit. 
But the problem is that there is too much information and noises around us as our automatic reaction takes place. 

To identify the cue, there is a need to have a systematic approach for us to see the patterns easier. You can look at it in five categories:

a) Location
b) Time
c) Emotional State
d) Other people
e) Immediate preceding action

4) Form a plan

Identification of the habit loop is crucial but more importantly, there must be a proactive measures to create a plan to see the CUE, do a positive ROUTINE to replace the negative habits in order to get the REWARD.

And what if there is failures or stumbling blocks?

I think what's important to know is that failures are crucial and important. The first few times we fail to change, we're probably not aware why we failed but when we see a pattern emerge by consciously understanding our cue, routine and rewards, we can start to understand and analyze, which helps us to learn. That's why failure is so valuable. It forces us to learn even if we don't want to. 

So while failure is inevitable, by repeatedly focusing on improving it consciously, new patterns and habits would emerge. 

"All our lives, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits - practical, emotion and intellectual - systematically organized for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be,"  - William James said. 

You now know how to redirect the path, you have the power to change your habits...this is how life-hack habits work.