77 - Habit-building 5: Understanding the habit loop



You now identify yourself as the person you want to be. With that as the kickstarter for the ‘New Me’ campaign, you start canvassing votes. Every action or behavior aligned with the ‘New Me’ is a vote you need. But with voting we know that even with the best intentions, it is too easy to forget or procrastinate. How do you stop yourself from flaking out?

Understand how the habit loop works so that you can then hack it.

When doing something feels good, your brain remembers it and pushes you to more of it. But you don’t know that in the beginning. Every habit starts off as a treasure hunt.

Habit = Problem (clue for a treasure) + Solution (hunt for the treasure)

Problem = Cue + Craving

Solution = Response + Reward

Cue = an unmet need your brain spots (hunger, thirst, pleasure) for a reward (food, water, sex)

Craving = the driver to fill the need (the thing that pushes you ahead)

Cue is simply noticing. The same cue for two different people may lead to completely different desires. Once a desire surfaces, click. A program is activated in your brain. You respond to it with an action. The action brings you the reward. Your craving is satisfied. You’re happy for the moment.

The cue, craving, and response have led you to the reward. A cycle is complete. That is in the foreground.

But something else has also happened: a feedback loop has been created. Your brain now connects the reward with the cue. It remembers the actions to get to the end, and now it wants them repeated. This is in the background.

This program is running non-stop. You’re continually scanning for cues, predicting the reward, taking an action, and working out if the payoff is worth it. You cannot stop the program from running. It is preset.

You may be wondering about the point of understanding a habit loop, if you can’t stop it. If you’re simply at the mercy of biology.

Biology has served us well. By making certain behaviors automatic, it has freed us to think new thoughts and look for new opportunities. Remember your first time at the airport? How complicated everything seemed. Imagine if you had to spend the same effort every time.

We can hack the habit loop by working _with _the way we are wired. Doing it any other way means we’re only fighting ourselves.

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