We’ve all been there. Whether via New Year’s resolutions, weight loss or productivity goals, or the achievement of big dreams, we’ve all desired to change something about our lives or the way we do things so we can experience fulfillment, success, or happiness.
But we’ve all also had goals or dreams that have been dropped along the way. We fell short or we forgot or we decided our progression toward something was no longer worth the effort. But how many times have our goals gotten derailed, not because we’ve lost a desire to achieve them, but rather we thought we lacked the willpower to change our lifestyles to accomplish them?
When this happens, it can feel discouraging. Sometimes it feels like we won’t ever change. We won’t ever eat healthy consistently. We won’t ever initiate a workout program that lasts long-term. We won’t ever prioritize sleep or family time over work.
But in Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, he sheds light on the idea that most of the things we do in life are because we’ve made it a habit to do them. Which leads us to the thought that if we created habits at some point in our lives, it means we can create new ones.
But how do we do this? Duhigg says it starts by recognizing the components of the “Habit Loop”. This is a model that our habits live by:
Every habit we live out gets started by a cue our brain recognizes. For instance, driving by a fast food restaurant on my way home from work every day is a cue. If I stop by that restaurant and purchase food that satisfies my hunger after a long, stressful day at work, I experience a reward from this cue. Now, when I drive by that fast food restaurant the next day, my brain recognizes that I could receive a reward by purchasing food there. If I give in to this over and over, I’ve created a habit like the one below:
Although it seems like this makes us slaves to our impulses and cravings, Duhigg argues that recognizing the Habit Loop actually empowers us to change. What if, using the example listed above, I change one thing in the loop:
We can begin to create new cravings for good things by changing just one of three components of this loop.
The hard part about this, though, is two-fold:
- We must take the time to recognize the cues and rewards our brains notice for any habit we want to change, and
- Sometimes, we must get creative with changing our routines
But if we start becoming mindful of the pieces of the Habit Loop we’ve picked up, we can begin to notice where change is possible. Which then enables us to grow more optimistic that we can indeed change. What would be possible in 2017 if believed you could change?
Written By: Brittni Paris
Brittni is an alum of Colorado State University, where she mingled with the greats like Kellie Walters and Chrissy Chard. She currently resides in Hoosier Country, with her husband Hunter, working for Indiana University as an academic advisor to business students and donning the IU candy-cane striped pants. She spends her time taking ballet classes, listening to podcasts, biking around town, and hosting friends at her apartment and favorite coffee shops. Brittni earned a B.A. in Psychology, an M.S. in Health and Exercise Science, and is an ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist. She’s excited to pursue a career in wellness coaching, helping women see how great they are and how much good they can bring to the world.
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