Have you ever tried to change a bad habit? If you were able to do it, how? I just listened to a book that discusses the science of habits and how to change them. It could be one of the best books I’ve read this year.

What Is A Habit?

The book was Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life & Business. Habits are fascinating and they run our lives. Until reading this book, I never knew why I felt compelled to wake up every morning and go workout, or why I can’t seem to avoid eating a snack once I put my kids down for a nap. In The Power of Habit, Duhigg explains that habits are made up of three components: the cue, the routine, and the reward.

The Habit Loop

charlesduhigg.com

If you change the cue or routine, you can change a bad habit into a good habit (or vice versa). The book is filled with fascinating stories of why Alcoholics Anonymous works or how Pepsodent marketing created America’s toothbrushing habit. However, I like practical tips and tricks and it’s got some of those too.

The Essential Components of Habit Change

If you want to change a habit, you need to change the cue or the routine and/or take away the reward, which means you have to be fully aware of what acts as the cue, routine, and reward for each of your habits. You also need belief. That usually means finding a support group that can reinforce your new habits.

Habit Change Flow Chart

That seems easy enough, right? It’s really not that simple. What I discovered after listening to the book is that Duhigg has gone one step farther in fleshing out the path to habit-change. He’s got a habit change flow chart!

How to Change a Habit

charlesduhigg.com

This is brilliant and if you want more context for each of these steps, you can read more about them on charlesduhigg.com. I can’t say I’ve worked my way through the flow chart yet, but this makes a lot of sense and I can’t wait to try it.

Changing My Routine

So, why do I think this might work? Before I read this book, I successfully changed a bad habit unknowingly using Duhigg’s key principles. I used to put the kids down for bed, then grab something sweet to eat. The cue was putting the kids to bed, the routine was eating sugar, and the reward was that it tasted great and I got to relax without my kids begging me to share. I wasn’t even hungry. So, I decided to find something else to do once the kids went to bed. Now I pour myself a cup of decaf green tea every night. I look forward to it, it’s calming, and it doesn’t have the calories.

Without even trying, I took a page out of The Power of Habit and supplanted my old routine with a new one. That gives me some personal hope that this really works. I’m excited to see what else I can change!

Have you ever changed a bad habit? How did you do it?