I recently finished the book, Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science of Making Positive Changes That Stick by Wendy Wood. I have previously enjoyed books on improving daily routines and habits such as Atomic Habits by James Clear, but this book stands out due to the academic nature of its author, Wendy Wood.
43% of our actions repeated on a daily basis are purely out of habit
There are two basic systems of our brain that are at interplay:
- Conscious Mind (associated with intentions, motivation, and willpower)
- Relying on willpower to create or break a habit will fail
- Subconscious Mind (automated habitual response to a cue in the surroundings)
- Making desired behaviors effortless and automatic leads to success
- Self control isn't effort, it is reducing effort!
3 basic foundational steps of creating a habit that resides
Build (or Break) habits:
- Build stable (Change up the) context and cues
- Reduce (Increase) friction
- Make it immediate (less) rewarding
- Repeat until it becomes automatic (Add variety to stop repetition)
- If the context remains stable, you repeat past actions automatically (habits/routines/automation)
- For example, you keep living in the same place, you keep driving the same route to work, you keep sitting on your couch every evening.
- You can shape your context to make habits easier to build.
- Shape your environment to make it favorable for you to do the behaviors you desire
- Variety creates unstable contexts
- Variety is not the spice of life, it is the enemy of habit.
- To build new habits, reduce the friction of the behavior -> make it easy to do
- To break habits, add friction -> make it harder to do
Context Cue Examples:
- State of mind
- Habit chaining: Let one habit cue another
- Place medicine by nightstand to take during bedtime routine
- Habit swapping: Substitute a behavior given the context cue
- Drink water instead of soda
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
As you keep doing the behavior, it gets easier to do. Over time, this becomes automatic.
The establishment of an immediate reward is the main driver for a habit to become automatic.
These are of 2 types of rewards:
- Extrinsic Rewards (appreciation, money, appealing surrounding, etc.)
- Intrinsic Rewards (the response itself, feeling good, etc.) - These are more effective to building habits
Over time, habits will not need a reward to continue, just the context/cue.