The Most Important Part of Making (and Keeping) Good Habits
We’ve written extensively about all of the habits that promise to make you a healthier, happier, more productive human. After all, we’re all likely in the market to better ourselves in some way or another, right?
But when it comes to enacting these habits and making them subconscious routine, the equation gets a touch more complex than we might initially think. Take, for example, the 20-minute rule, which encourages us to break our bigger goals down into daily goal habits that we practice for 20 minutes every day. This devotion to practice will transform itself into habit, then that habit into subconscious behavior.
Another, perhaps more overlooked element to the equation of successfully forming better habits is, according to New York Times staff writer Smarter Faster Better author Charles Duhigg, the reward. According to Duhigg, “Rewards are why our brains take even very complex behaviors and make them occur almost without us thinking about them.”
He explains that every habit has three components: the cue (a trigger or incentive for a habit to begin), the routine (the actual behavior), and the reward. The reward, whether it’s something subconscious (simply knowing you completed a task) or more strategic (latte for your troubles?), is how your brain adapts and learns to make that habit one that sticks. However, it’s sometimes hard for us to discern what exactly our brain is identifying as the reward to a particular behavior. Thus, “designing” this part of the habit-forming equation can be more difficult than it seems.
Still, research suggests that if you come to associate a dreaded morning gym session with a truly pleasurable walk home (or even a piece of post-workout chocolate!), you will essentially start to interlink those disparate actions. In other words, you might, before you know it, actually create a real gym-going routine without much thought to the scenic walk home or the chocolate.
Bottom line: The next time you follow through on a habit you’re trying to establish, reward yourself! You really do deserve it.
Read more about healthy habits over on Quora, and tell us: How do you approach creating and keeping good habits?