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The Power of Habit

August 2, 2022

To achieve or Not to achieve – THAT is the question! Understanding our “Habit Loop” can drastically change our patterns of behavior and help us achieve our goals. Creating a fulfilling, less stressful and ultimately happy life!

Most of our daily actions, that we assume are a series of decisions we consciously make, are actually habits and not “decisions” at all.

Exercise is a cornerstone habit that activates extensive change that has a flow on effect to other areas of our lives and not just the obvious body and mental health benefits. People that eat better and exercise regularly experience far less stress, are more productive and exhibit more tolerance.

The basal ganglia is the part of our brains responsible for storing habits, permitting the rest of our brains to become more still and reduce effort.

The Habit Loop is our brains looking for Cues (triggers the brain into automatic mode), Routines (physical, mental or emotional) and Rewards (assists our brain in deciding if the loop is worth continuing).

Studies found that our brains process a lot of information when we are doing something different. Greater effort is required by the brain at the start of a new habit as it looks for the Cue of what device to use, at completion of the activity when Reward surfaces, our brains are active assuring everything went to plan.

“Over time the loop becomes more automatic and the cue and reward become intertwined until anticipation and craving emerges.”

Habits don’t dissolve. So that we don’t need to continue relearning things, habits are encoded into our brains. The problem is our brains don’t distinguish a good habit from a bad, even when the experience that created the habit is long forgotten, it will influence the way we behave. Therefore we don’t really ever erase old patterns but we can manage and modify so that old patterns are replaced with new ones that deliver the same Reward, with a healthier Routine.

 “You can never truly extinguish bad habits, however almost any habit can be transformed if the cue and reward stay the same, the key is to insert a new routine.”

3 rules that must be satisfied to create a habit

  1. Find the Cue
  2. Define the Reward
  3. Focus on the Craving

Studies show people starting a new exercise routine are more likely to stick to a plan if they choose a specific cue (exercising as soon as they get home from work), and a clear reward (a beer or evening of guilt free TV).”

The brain suggests happiness when we are rewarded; replication weaves reward and cue together so we can experience happiness when we see the cue, even before the routine and reward – this generates Craving. If our cravings go unmet, the neurology of our brains exhibit frustration and desire, which in turn can lead to depression and anger. Our habits also must be strong enough to overcome distractions. “The brain can be reprogrammed, however you need to be deliberate about it.”

“Use the cue, routine, reward + craving formula to create a habit.


You want to exercise more

  • Cue – go to the gym as soon as you wake up
  • Reward – smoothie or endorphin rush post workout
  • Craving – think about the reward, anticipate it (the craving will make it easier to employ your routine)   
  • Cravings drive habits, sparking a craving makes creating a new habit easier.”

“A Craving is what makes Cues and Rewards work – it Powers the Habit Loop.”

Writing down (journaling) our goals, with detail (including pinpointing both Cue and Reward), has been proven to double the progress in people that do vs those that don’t.

Looking for the little wins leads us to further little wins, which prompts our brains into believing the Big wins are not only possible but achievable!

How To Change or Create A Habit:

  • Pinpoint The Routine; This is thebehaviour we want to change or create. Recognise the Cue (the moment the desire hits you – are you bored? Hungry? Need a rest? Is it a particular time of day?), then the Reward (what we get out of it – Energy? Diversion? Correct blood sugar? Satisfaction? Change of place?  Balance?)
  • Trial Different Rewards; If we adapt our routine to deliver a different Reward, we gratify our hankerings (including those we aren’t conscious of) “Test different outcomes to help determine the craving. If you’re hungry, the healthy replacement should work just as well, if its energy, a coffee will work, it could just be socialising. After each activity write down 3 things that come to mind (how you feel), 15 mins later if you don’t feel like repeating the old habit, your craving has been satisfied, test another reward to isolate the craving.”
  • Identify the Cue; When that desire hits, write down the details – what were you doing?, time?, were others present or not?, what was your state of mind ?, where were you? If you journal your habits for a few days it’s so much easier to isolate our Cues (triggers).
  • Plan Of Action; Now you’re aware of Your Habit Loop, “you can change to a better routine by planning for the cue and choosing a behaviour that delivers the reward you are craving. Habit is a deliberate choice at 1st, which we stop thinking about, and the brain follows automatically. When I see CUE, I will ROUTINE, to get REWARD.”

“To re-engineer it you need to make choices again which means you need a plan. Initially you engineer it, eventually it will become automatic.”

*For further reading and an Excellent resource on this subject, please read

‘The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg” C 2012, Random House, Vauxhall UK

Thank you Charles.. Quotation marks indicate where you have been quoted directly.


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