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Establishing new habits and routines

In the last section we have encouraged you to find new habits, rituals, practices or routines that can help you renew your energy resources.  But how easy is it to establish new habits and routines? Charles Duhigg, author of ‘The Power of Habit’ discusses this in the following short video:

How habits work – Charles Duhigg

Imagine for a moment that you have a habit that you really want to change.

Let’s say for instance you go up to the cafeteria every afternoon you eat a chocolate chip cookie. This habit has caused you to gain a little bit of weight. In fact this habit has caused you to gain exactly eight pounds and your wife started making some pointed comments. And when I say you, what I really mean is me, because this is a habit that I had that I just couldn’t kick. To understand why that had it so powerful and what it would take to change it. I had to learn how habits work.

Every habit functions the same way. At first there’s a cue – some type of trigger that makes the behaviour unfold automatically. Studies tell us that a cue can be a location the time of day – a certain, emotional state; other people; or just a pattern of behaviours that consistently triggers a certain routine.

To figure out the cue for my craving I spent a few days tracking exactly when the urge to eat a cookie hit and what I noticed pretty soon was something interesting. The cookie craving always hit about between three o’clock and three-thirty in the afternoon. That was my cue. It was a certain time of day.

The next part in the habit loop is the routine the behaviour itself. And for me that was pretty easy to figure out every day between three and three-thirty I’d get this craving for a cookie, I’d get up out of my chair and walk over to the elevator. I’d take the elevator up to the 14th floor. I’d get out I’d buy a cookie and then I would eat it while talking to my colleagues in the cafeteria.

The last part of the habit loop is the reward. And in some respects the reward is the most important part because that’s why habits exist so that we can get the rewards that we want. But figuring out a reward is kind of tricky. To figure out what reward was driving my habits I did a little bit of an experiment. One day when the cookie urge struck instead of going up to the cafeteria I went outside and I took a walk around the block. Then the next day I went up to the cafeteria. But instead of buying a cookie I got a candy bar and then ended at my desk. And then the day after that I went to the cafeteria again. But I didn’t buy anything. Instead, I just talked to friends for about 10 minutes. You get the idea with what I was trying to do was test different hypotheses to figure out what reward I was actually craving. And what I figured out pretty quickly was it had nothing to do with cookies. It had to do with socializing.

Nowadays what happens is at about three-thirty in the afternoon I absentmindedly stand up. I look around the office I see a friend I walk over and we’ll gossip for 10 minutes and then I’ll go back to my desk. The earth should go get a cookie has completely disappeared. The new behaviour has become a habit and I’ve lost about 12 pounds as a result. Studies have shown that if you can diagnose your habits you can change them in whichever way you want. So what are the cues routines and rewards in your life?

What habits do you want to change?

So, before we move away from our exploration of developing personal resilience, we‘d like you to make at least one (more) attempt at creating a new and helpful habit that will support your development of personal resilience.