July 10, 2023

On Breaking Bad Habits: Avoid Triggers

When my husband and I were on the way home this evening, we had to use different route. And because of the change in our usual routine, we forgot to call my mother-in-law, to let her know we were near.

We forget habits we've built when the trigger is lost.

In our case, we call Mama once we enter our subdivision gate, but we didn't go through that entrance. And so the habit was broken.

This reminded me of Charles Duhigg's habit loop framework:

  1. Cue: the trigger
  2. Routine: the habit
  3. Reward: what you gain from doing the habit

When the cue happens, the routine (habit) automatically follows, and a reward is gained.

But because our cue was lost, the routine didn't follow. And that's one of the ways we can break bad habits: figure out the triggers and avoid them.

Do you find yourself always buying ice cream when you pass by the 7-Eleven in your office building, right after lunch? Spend your lunch break in the office instead, or choose the path away from the store.

Do you find yourself reaching for the chips in your pantry whenever you see them? Don't restock—buy granola bars or digestives instead.

Do you find yourself trapped in mindless scrolling in the middle of the day? Place your phone in a different room. Out of sight, out of mind.

An automated system won't work without the initial command. Break bad habits by cutting the program from the beginning.