HABITS: How Exactly Do Habits Form? (Part 1/4)

Achieving Better Habits [1]

Think of a bad habit you have.

For me, it’s checking social media during my work day. This is a bad habit because it’s unintentional and it distracts me from the work I set out to do.

Yours could be snacking, biting your nails, or something else (but it’s probably checking social media during the work day).

In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains that there are three parts of every habit, good or bad: a cue, a routine, and a reward.

A cue is a reminder of the habit you enjoy.

A routine is the act you unconsciously engage in after receiving the cue.

And a reward is a benefit that the action gives you.

For my social media habit, the cue is boredom or confusion.

I experience a momentary mental dip when I get stumped at work, so my brain looks to recover from that dip as quickly as it can.

Before I even think about it, my unconscious routine is to open Instagram on my desktop and scroll.

These unconscious actions are inspired by the reward my brain knows is coming: a small rush of dopamine from social media.

This is a solution to my boredom—but only a momentary one that leaves me with less focus to solve the problem than before.

Every habit has these three components: a cue, a routine, and a reward.

We’ll discuss strategies to create good habits later, but first it’s important to understand how habits form so you can begin to break your bad habits.


Are you an overachiever?

Continue to next part: HABITS (Part 2)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4