Breaking The Habit Loop
In our earlier article, we explored how a habit loop can be formed, and the impact it might have on our lives.
As William James, a famous psychologist, once said:
All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits
Achieving financial well-being is thus also about mastering our habits so that the good ones remain to make our lives more efficient while the bad ones are replaced.
Mastery of habits take an inner building of self-awareness and an external building of a community support. Begin by choosing to make a conscious decision to take responsibility for your habits then actively work on recognising your habits. A habit is like an addiction, hard to control and change. With the help of a support network, they can help highlight habits that you are blind to, hold you accountable to owning your habits and celebrate when you succeed.
Breaking/ Replacing a Habit
Sadly, habits can never be broken. They are retained in the brain, ready to be activated. The way to ‘break’ a habit is to create another which replaces it. First identify the specific habit, then break it into the three elements of cue, routine and reward. Select an element that you can control then put it into action.
- The Cue
Remove if possible, otherwise enlist your community to call it out if it’s hard for you to be aware of when it occurs. Here’s a good article that helps with determining your habit cues.
- The Routine
Change the action you take, the thoughts that goes through your mind or the emotions that you feel. Replace them with other actions, thoughts and emotions and use visual reminders to guide your practice
- The Reward
Each time you adopt the new routine, give yourself a reward. This tricks your brain into amplifying the new habit loop, ranking it above the old habit.
When we first begin, it’s likely that we will revert back to the old habits. On average, it takes a person 2 months to change a habit. Persistence is key and remember your commitment to mastery. Accountability to your support network also helps. Repeat the new loop over and over again until the brain registers and automates the new routine, replacing the old habit loop with the new.
Sometimes, what our brain identifies as the reward for a habit isn’t as obvious as one might think. If one had a craving for cookies, that may have been deemed as a reward for hunger. However, that might have been a “comfort food” reward for an emotional down. To effectively change the habit, one might have to test different theories of cue-routine-reward. If you are still craving for the original reward, pay attention to possible cues and test different routines.
Try it out, realise your habits and try changing a very small habit but re-altering the routine to see how this works. Then slowly move on to the ones that will make you the person you want to be.