A new year brings with it a new start, so what better time to re-evaluate your habits and learn to shape better ones?
In this extract of James Clear’s Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones, readers learn about the science behind how habits work and the four-step process to changing your ways.
The science of how habits work
The process of building a habit can be divided into four simple steps: cue, craving, response, and reward.* Breaking it down into these fundamental parts can help us understand what a habit is, how it works, and how to improve it.
*Readers of The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg will recognize these terms. Duhigg wrote a great book and my intention is to pick up where he left off by integrating these stages into four simple laws you can apply to build better habits in life and work.
This four-step pattern is the backbone of every habit, and your brain runs through these steps in the same order each time.
First, there is the cue. The cue triggers your brain to initiate a behavior. It is a bit of information that predicts a reward. Our prehistoric ancestors were paying attention to cues that signaled the location of primary rewards like food, water, and sex. Today, we spend most of our time learning cues that predict secondary rewards like money and fame, power and status, praise and approval, love and friendship, or a sense of personal satisfaction. (Of course, these pursuits also indirectly improve our odds of survival and reproduction, which is the deeper motive behind everything we do).
Your mind is continuously analysing your internal and external environment for hints of where rewards are located. Because the cue is the first indication that we’re close to a reward, it naturally leads to a craving.
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Cravings are the second step, and they are the motivational force behind every habit. Without some level of motivation or desire — without craving a change — we have no reason to act. What you crave is not the habit itself but the change in state it delivers. You do not crave smoking a cigarette, you crave the feeling of relief it provides. You are not motivated by brushing your teeth but rather by the feeling of a clean mouth. You do not want to turn on the television, you want to be entertained. Every craving is linked to a desire to change your internal state. This is an important point that we will discuss in detail later.
Cravings differ from person to person. In theory, any piece of …….