Think about it – everything from getting coffee from the same café on the way to work each morning to always checking our emails first thing after firing up our computer to mindlessly flicking through the ‘Gram on the bus ride home.
With such a large proportion of our day taken up with this habitual behaviour, if you are at a point where you feel like making changes in your personal or professional life, tackling some of your habits is the way to go.
Changing Habits: The habit loop
To change a habit, it’s important to understand how habits form.
Charles Duhigg in his book “The Power of Habit” created a simple framework for understanding habits. They form as part of a simple neurological looping pattern:
A cue – something that prompts you to take an action
A routine – the sum of those actions prompted by the cue that in turn create a craving
A reward – the response to the craving
So, an example many will relate to is your morning tea ritual at your workplace. Every morning the clock hits about 10 am (cue) which triggers a response of you getting up to take action (routine) and grab a coffee…and a muffin…or pastry…or chocolate bar…etc (reward).
Changing the habit
Once you identify the habit you want to change, there is a process to go through to make this happen.
Step 1: Understand the why
Most habits are built on a function – they lead to an outcome you have come to believe (or convince yourself!) is beneficial. But behind that is the real why – essentially “the cue”. If you can identify this, you are on the road to shifting it.
So, in the case of the coffee break, maybe you get up at 10 am every morning because you’ve had too much screen time or you have a daily meeting at 9 am that you feel you need to reward yourself with after because, yawn, you got through another one!
But don’t overthink the “why” too much!
The thing about habits is that they become so ingrained, we can lose sight of the “why”…the cue is a triggered response, not a considered action, which is a good reason to think about changing that habit.
Step 2: Consider and change the routine
Once you know the cue, look at the routine it triggers. Is there something you can do to alter, shift or upset this routine?
Using our example, you could put something in your work calendar for 10 am – answering a few emails – that will push out your coffee break, which in turn can shift cravings for the sweet treat that goes with it but also maybe offer a different reward…
Step 3: Reconsider the reward
Adding in the idea of a different reward is the piece de resistance. This rewires the neural pleasure pathways that have become so hooked on the habit you’re trying to break.
So, answering those emails at 10 am and pushing out the coffee break means you will save yourself putting time into emails later in the day, the reward for which is either not cutting into your lunch break or leaving work on time (or at least earlier than you do now).
Step 4: Write a plan
Finally, Duhigg suggests breaking or changing the habit by writing down the plan to help you understand and adopt the new habit.
Keep it simple – When (cue), I will (routine) because it provides me with (reward).
Using our example: When it hits 10 am, I will answer some emails because it provides me with a cleaner inbox, which means I will leave work on time.
Finally…be kind to yourself!
Giving yourself time to break the habit is crucial. Approaching it cold turkey or going by the conventional wisdom of changing a habit can take 28 days may work for some, but is not a hard-and-fast rule.
Taking baby steps is fine. Going gently, gently might even lead to much more sustainable change because the shock to your system of the loss of the reward feels far less ‘“punishing’” than its sudden removal.
Also, be prepared to make mistakes or slip up. When this happens, don’t go too hard on yourself. Just process the information and try again at the next cue.
Gorilla Jobs Can Help You
We love what we do at Gorilla Jobs, and while there are challenges, we are always ready to help you as a candidate or recruiting organisation to ensure the best talent ends up in the best jobs. Reach out to us today if you have any questions!