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In order to change or improve our habits, we need to first understand the phenomena of cue, action reward. This article provides an overview of the psychological theories that explain habit formation.

Become Aware of Your Habits to Activate The Cue Action Reward!

Oct 23, 2023

We are our habits, our habits are us. And having a fixed mindset is a hinderance in habit formation. Habits don't care if they're good or bad - helping us or hurting us. But over time, they'll compound to determine who you are and how much happiness and fulfillment you experience. I call this “The Equation Of Life:”

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The System is Failing you

“Our knowledge is exponentially advancing, but our wisdom isn’t.” - Will Moore

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Unfortunately, the system we all grow up in that leads to the first vital step in the process, your belief system, is broken. There's a disconnect between our primal instincts and a society focusing more and more on money and status. 

And in an on-demand world filled with temptation, we can get instant gratification whenever we want with the press of a button. 

  • Why bother developing dating skills when you can just swipe right?  

  • Why bother reading a book when you can Google whatever answer you need?  

  • Why bother picking up the phone to call that family member you haven't spoken to in a while when you can shoot off a quick text?  

When humans are faced with something that doesn't give us instant gratification, we turn our attention to something that does instead of doing whatever is necessary to make it happen ourselves. So, when you know there is an easier, quicker alternative, it's in your nature to take it. But by doing this, your subconscious takes note and begins to work against you. And that's how the failure habit of taking the easy way is formed. 

This leads you to instinctually “miswant” things that actually make you LESS happy. For example, you WANT more stuff because your brain tells you it will help you survive and thrive, but getting it doesn't give you that TRUE happiness that we all crave, and it distracts you from the crucial aspects of life that actually do. 

It's becoming increasingly difficult to know what to pay attention to and take action on. The late great Stan Lee once said; “With great power there must also come great responsibility” – and the advertisers and big tech companies who have learned to take advantage of human nature to manipulate us into making them more money need to step up and use that power responsibly! We all have fallen prey to impulse buying thanks to manipulative advertisements.

On top of all this, our primary influencers, like our parents, peers, teachers, life coach for young adults, and media are all unknowingly part of the same system, perpetuating the same bad habit over and over. Then you end up passing them down to your kids, and so on.

So how do we get you out of this failure loop and into your success loop?  

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Full-System Upgrade to Activate The Cue Action Reward

We all have systems, but as mentioned above, unfortunately most of them are simply an evolution of the system we've grown up in – and it's broken. 

Just like any professional athlete, entrepreneur, or business, you'll need a system that puts the right ations on autopilot to be turned into habits that compound into greatness.

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The best way to do this is to make sure your habits revolve around  the main areas of your life that have been scientifically linked to deep, soul-filling, long-term happiness. 

I Call These Your ”5 Cores”:

Mindset:

Getting your mind working FOR instead of against you. Becoming an unstoppable growth owner who fails beautifully, sees obstacles as temporary roadblocks waiting for solutions, and gives fear the finger.

Career & Finances:

Doing what you love and are great at, executing your purpose, and exponentially growing your wealth along the way. 

Relationships:

Creating and maintaining deep, fulfilled relationships and allies to help you achieve your goals. 

Physical Health:

Taking care of your physical body to ensure looking good, feeling good, and gaining the energy and stamina to propel you through life. 

Emotional Health & Giving Back:

Managing stress, expressing your passions regularly, and ensuring the world is better, not worse, for having you in it.

Within each core are universal principles that have proven themselves through the test of time, and you can hang your hat on. Most of us are unaware of these or have heard them in a certain context and said, “ya, that sounds right,” but have never taken action.

To ignore these is to ensure you develop any action on implementing into that we've either ignored and developed failure habits from or learned and adapted via success habits. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, failure habits are becoming increasingly prevalent, which is why we're becoming less and less happy. 

The good news is that you can upgrade your broken system with a new system that puts you on autopilot. It's not easy, but it's a lot of fun.

One Simple Way To Gamify Your Awareness To Make It Easier To Upgrade Your System. 

Habits are formed in response to environmental triggers. These triggers or cues prompt you to perform certain actions. It's the cue that causes you to put on your seatbelt when you get into the car, reach for a cigarette as soon as you wake up in the morning, or switch on the TV when you sit down on the couch.

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Over time, your brain picks up on these cues and triggers certain responses without consciously thinking about them. And that's important – once your habits become automatic, you stop thinking about them. In other words, you don't have to be aware of a cue for it to trigger a habit – but the more you repeat the action, the more automatic it becomes, and the cues gradually become invisible.

This system can work FOR you or AGAINST you when we apply them to the Life Equation we discussed earlier. Two factors decide which one it is; awareness and accountability

This podcast is worth listening to Power of Your Voice: The 5 Cores to Success, Happiness & Greatness

Understanding the Habit Loop: Cue, Routine, Reward

Now let's understand the Habit Loop properly.

Cue

In the intricate dance of habit formation model, the cue stands as the initial nudge that sets the entire choreography in motion. Stemming from both internal and external triggers, cues silently prompt us to engage in routines that have been etched into our neural pathways.

These cues could be as subtle as an emotion, a location, or even a specific time of day. Understanding the nuanced art of deciphering cues empowers us to recognize the starting point of habit loops, and by unraveling their grip, we gain the agency to pave new pathways toward better habits.

Routine

The routine is where the spotlight truly shines, capturing our attention as it unveils the steps we habitually perform. Be it the familiar morning routine checklist, a meticulous work ritual, or how we navigate social interactions, routines encapsulate the actions that either steer us toward success or plunge us into the quagmire of bad habits.

Intentional habit creation, as advocated by experts in the realm of atomic habits, hinges on sculpting these routines with precision. By orchestrating routines that align with our desired behavior, we propel ourselves toward progress and minimize the gravitational pull of detrimental patterns.

Reward

Ah, the allure of the reward – a magnetic force that often dictates the longevity and impact of our habits. Rewards deliver contentment, bridging the gap between effort and fulfillment.

They're not only the immediate gratifications that accompany actions but also the secondary rewards that extend their tendrils beyond the surface.

To predict secondary rewards is to glimpse into the future benefits a habit can bestow. Rewards teach, forging a connection between cause and effect, thereby amplifying the allure of positive behaviors and undermining the grip of counterproductive actions.

Like just background noise can fade into obscurity, rewards satisfy the primal yearning for primary and secondary reinforcements, binding us to the same patterns or propelling us toward new, empowering habits. Rewards provide benefits!

Become Aware Of And Manipulate Your Habit Cues

Unless someone actually points it out, you may have no idea that you twirl your hair when you're flirting, rub your neck when you're nervous, or constantly apologize to people. And the same goes for your eating habits, how you focus your energy and attention at work, or the way you respond to your partner when they're angry. 

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The key is to make the unconscious conscious so you can step into the driver's seat and choose the habits you form and – ultimately – the direction your life takes.

And the best way to do this is to understand the triggers/cues that lead up to that habit. If you want to stop a failure habit, you'll want to make the cue invisible. You have to make sure to exit comfort zone to make some progress. For example, if you have the habit of endlessly scrolling through your phone before bed, which is affecting how much sleep you get, you'll want to make it harder to do by making it invisible.

You could:

  • Turn off the notification for that particular app

  • Delete or at least move the social media icon off your main home screen

  • Set time limits on the app from the setting in your phone 

Contrarily, if you want to FORM a success habit, you want the cue to be obvious

When I wanted to start taking vitamins, I put them right at eye level when I was making a shake so I would have that prompt, literally, before my eyes. FYI – this is also an example of habit stacking, another great way to build good habits.

Another thing I do that massively contributes to my productivity is keep Todoist open with my top priorities in my browser while I'm working. If I get distracted or if it gets buried underneath a hundred other windows, I hit that button that shrinks everything and I bring that list back to the front.

By putting the equivalent of a neon sign on the cue will decrease the friction of your new behavior, and massively increase your chances of success.

Conclusion - Cue Action Reward!

As we journey through the labyrinth of habit formation, we become architects of our own destiny, wielding the tools of cues, routines, and rewards.

Our internal and external environment interweave with our intentions; through this alchemy, we shape better habits that mold our lives.

The habit loop, an intricate dance of mind and behavior, elucidates the profound truth that every action, every routine, every reward, is a brushstroke that paints the canvas of our existence.

By understanding the profound mechanics of this loop, we can steer our ship away from the treacherous waters of bad habits and navigate toward the shores of actualized potential, one intentional habit at a time. Life is unpredictable. So, live it to the fullest and try to develop success habits to make it more fun and fulfilling.

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Will Moore is a gamification, habits and happiness expert.

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