Part I: The Habit Loop and Its Endpoint
I developed dozens of daily habits without a fail using this framework .
This is part 1 of 4 about the widely known habit loop and my 2 cents into its construction.
The Habit Loop.
This is the core of Dughill’s message which is based on a vast amount of brain research done over the last few decades.
A habit consists of the cue, routine and reward. Those three elements are stored in your brain as one unit. You get the signal to perform your habit, you perform it and then comes the reward that finishes the loop.
This approach is the foundation of a number of coaching programs and habit development models (mini habits, tiny habits and more). It’s a great way to build small habits and, better yet, to build physical habits, like exercising, drinking water, eating the right kind of food, etc. Those activities are ingrained into your body, so this mind to body connection (a loop in your brain) facilitates the process of habit development.
I don’t necessarily agree with the last piece of this model being referred to as a “reward”. I think researchers misnamed it because they were biased by the experiments they performed.
In their brain research, they were experimenting on laboratory rats. They trained them to find a way to a piece of chocolate in the labyrinth. After some time, the animals were habitually finding the way to the treat. The taste of chocolate was closing the loop and completing the habit in their brain. If they didn’t find the chocolate, they were confused because the loop in their brains was still active.
Well, we are not rats, life is not a labyrinth and chocolate is evil (surely for me, with my sweet tooth).
However, my experience suggests that you don’t need a reward at the end of the loop, you just need a clear endpoint.
The habit loop approach is also great for developing a habit when your life (or just part of your day) is highly structured. For example, I developed several habits which are cued by my commute to and from work.
While I wait for a suburban train, I meditate for a few minutes. The cue for my meditation habit is arriving on the train platform, the routine is my meditation and the “reward” (you see how inappropriate the name is in this context? Let’s call it an endpoint from now on) is arrival of the train.
When I transfer between suburban and subway trains, I repeat my personal mission statement in my head.
Cue: stepping off the suburban train.
Routine: repeating my personal mission statement.
Endpoint: arriving on a subway train platform.
The way to the office by subway takes me almost exactly ten minutes. On the way to work I read a book written by a saint. On a way back home I practice speed reading. The cues are finding a place in a subway train. The endpoints are arrivals to the destinations.
I haven’t mentioned even half the habits coupled with my daily commute. Every time your schedule is highly structured, you have a great opportunity to build your habits via the habit loop method.
I have also a whole stack of habits I do right after waking up and when preparing for sleep in the evening. Waking up and going to sleep are other habits ingrained in your life for good and you can build upon them.
Developing a habit
The actual habit development is amazingly simplistic. You design your behavior using cue-routine-endpoint system and then perform according to your design. Anchoring your cue to an existing habit can be very efficient.
Several examples from Tiny Habits course:
“After I brush, I will floss one tooth.”
“After I pour my morning coffee, I will text my mom.”
“After I start the dishwasher, I will read one sentence from a book.”
“After I walk in my door from work, I will get out my workout clothes.”
“After I sit down on the train, I will open my sketch notebook.”
“After I hear any phone ring, I will exhale and relax for 2 seconds.”
“After I put my head on the pillow, I will think of one good thing from my day.”
“After I arrive home, I will hang my keys up by the door.”
An ultrashort video about the importance of habits:
Author and Business Coach