Building Your Habit String

In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg discusses how to build a habit.  He breaks habits down by including three components, which include the cue, the action, and the reward.  The cue serves as a reminder to perform a habit.  The action is the actual habit performed.  Finally the reward is the feeling or physical thing received for performing the habit.  For example let’s hope we all have the habit of brushing our teeth each morning.  See the habit breakdown below:

  1. Cue – Get out of bed
  2. Action – Brush teeth
  3. Reward – Teeth feel fresh

Performing positive daily habits is critical to our health and well being.  Regardless of how many positive habits you’ve developed, there is always room to add more to our days.  The question becomes how do you add multiple habits to your day?  This involves a two step process, which includes first what I call the rapid habit time block.  The second step is to string the habits together.

Rapid Habit Time Block

When planning your day you should set aside a block of time devoted to the habits you’d like to develop.  The amount of time allocated to habits depends on your personal schedule and how many habits you want to incorporate.  Keep in mind many of the habits we aspire to build don’t take much time in our days.  Let’s say you want to build the habits of meditating, journaling, and stretching.  Devote 10 minutes to each and you’re only asking for a half an hour of your day.  For sake of an example let’s say you’ve decided to do these habits 8:00-8:30am each day.

Stringing the Habits

Once you’ve set aside a time in the day for meditating, journaling, and stretching, you must then decide the order in which you perform each habit.  This is a personal choice, but regardless the order it’s important to move quickly from one habit to the next.  The reason for this is to hone in on the cue.  If you recall the cue is the reminder to perform a habit.  By stringing habits together, the ending (reward) of one habit also serves as the cue to begin the next habit.  See the process below, with the understanding that the order of the habits are meditating, journaling, and stretching:

Habit #1 – Meditating

  1. Cue – 8am alarm reminder to meditate
  2. Action – Meditate
  3. Reward – Mind feels clear

Habit #2 – Journaling

  1. Cue – Mind feeling clear after meditating
  2. Action – Journal
  3. Reward – Satisfaction of getting thoughts onto paper

Habit #3 – Stretching

  1. Cue –  Satisfaction of getting thoughts onto paper
  2. Action – Stretch
  3. Reward – Body feels more limber

Summary

In order to bring new habits into your life, you must first decide when to do the habits and then string them together.  One of the biggest reasons why we don’t perform habits (aside from laziness) is we simply forget.  Remember that the key is in the cue.  By stringing habits together, the momentum of completing one habit cues us to take on the next habit.  Grouping your positive habits together will decrease the likelihood of forgetting about them.  Eventually the string of habits will become as second nature as brushing your teeth.


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