The Habit Loop
In order to make lasting change within your life you need to understand the habit loop and figure out whether it’s working for you or against you.
I’ll take the simple example of weight loss.
How about you planned on losing 10kg. You manage to lose the weight but two months later you’re back to square one. Slowly but surely the weight you lost has crept back on.
Using willpower alone to reach your goals will get you there with difficulty but once you reach your goal most people’s willpower disappears. Willpower isn’t a sustainable way to stick with your goals.
In order to make these changes last you need to develop habits around what you want to achieve. Here’s how to get started:
The Habit Loop as Charles Duhigg describes in his book The Power of Habit has three parts:
- Trigger: This can be something you see, feel or smell that acts as a stimulus to your brain that reminds it of the action or routine. In terms of weight loss this would be the food you eat or don’t eat. In this instance we’ll take a piece of cake.
- Routine: A learned pattern that you do when triggered. You pick up the cake and eat it in anticipation of the reward that comes with eating cake.
- Reward: The sugar and fat in the cake tastes good what’s more you get a dopamine release in the brain similar to if you were to take cocaine.
The more and more you repeat this routine the brain learns to anticipate the reward and releases dopamine even before you eat the cake making the habit stronger and stronger over time.
This is the main reason that obese people have difficulty controlling their eating habits and they soon become out of control.