Dying Daily #177: The Habit Loop

This series on habits is drawn primarily from The Power of Habit by Charles Durhigg, which I would highly recommend to anyone interested in learning more about why we do what we do, and how this benefits and harms us. It is also a fascinating look at how advertisers and other entities exploit this to sell us things. Some of it is infuriating, but it is all interesting.

A primary aspect of this book concerns what Durhigg calls “The Habit Loop”, which simultaneously creates and reinforces our habits.

It goes like this:

Look at my multimedia expertise.

So we have whatever it is that triggers our habit, the routine it prompts us to follow, and the perceived reward we get from it all. The important thing for us to look at today is the routine, which is just whatever it is you are doing.

I recently applied this to jumping online and looking at the various subreddits I like while in the middle of writing this blog every morning. My routine was to write for a while, then open my browser, open one of my subreddits, and click open a million posts in a million different tabs. I would click through the posts, closing them one at a time, and then return to writing until I did the same thing again, only with a different subreddit this time.

That’s it, that is the routine right there. It’s not complicated.

But these routines are everything.

These are the hidden programs that run our lives and dictate what our existence looks like. These are our go-to behaviors, and, when unexamined, our default self-desructions.

My looking at my subreddits doesn’t really hurt anything. None of them are harmful or overly negative. But, they do waste a lot of time. I found that by shifting my habit in regard to them, I saved between 20-35 minutes every morning on this blog. That’s a lot of time in my life that was going to looking at pictures of cats and memes.

So, to begin our look at habits, identify the routine of something you want to change. It can be anything that has become a habit that you would rather do without. 

What is it you are doing?

What are the steps involved?

Take some time today to notice what goes into the routine of the habit you are seeking to change. 

We’ll spend the next couple of days looking at how these things play out, how to identify cues and what we can do to shift our habits to something healthier.