habitsimage of happiness as a habit

Your habits determine your reality.


Choose to habitually worry, you become a worrisome person.


Always take action, you become someone who gets stuff done.


Who you are is a function of your habitual thought patterns, the emotions you feel, and the daily actions you take.


“If you want to create change in your life you must start by looking at these habits.”


In this article, we will cover habits and how you can modify them to best serve you in creating the life you desire.


image of the habit loop




Habit Formation


Habits are formed by a very simple and consistent framework.


This consists of four stages that we will discuss to offer you some clarity and direction to better understand your habits.


Once you understand habits and how they are formed they truly put you in the driver seat for changing the habits but no longer serve you. 


Let’s break down each of the four stages and kick start your habit changes. 



1. Cue


A cue serves as a reminder or a trigger for a specific behavior.


The smell of shortbread cookies reminds you of your grandmother.


image of cookies baking


Or even better, the sound of a song that reminds you of your ex-boyfriend.


“Triggers initiate the habit loop and although it’s hard to change triggers, we can remove them from our environment.”


If you want to stop drinking but have a table with all your alcohol bottles on it right, these cues will make stopping this habit much more challenging.


Start identifying your habits by reflecting on triggers activated through all five of your senses. 


Start with sight and think about the things that you see that trigger a specific craving or behavior.


Next, move on to what you smell, hear, taste, and feel.


image of a woman smelling an orange


The first step in creating habit change is to identify your cues and your triggers.


Let’s look into the cravings these cues create.



2. Craving


Your craving is your desire, motivation, and the reason you take action. 


Cravings are very powerful because they are fed by the power of emotions.


“Every craving we have is formed based on our desire to feel differently.”


  • You meditate because you want to feel relaxed and feel more spiritual.
  • You go for a walk because you want to feel healthier.
  • You check your social media because you want to feel connected. 


Cravings create the meaning and interpretation we offer our cues.


You and I could hear the same song or cue and both have a different craving in response to it. 


image of a woman responding to a cue


Cravings are a newer piece of the habit formation puzzle not recognized by previous leaders in the field of habit formation. 


Let’s talk about what happens after your craving has initiated your desire to act. 



3. Response


Your response can be in the form of a thought or an action.


The sound of an ambulance might make you think of your friends in the area.


image of an ambulance as a sound cue or trigger


An ambulance sound might also make you immediately run to the window. 


“We all have a unique response to the cues in our environment.”


Our responses are a learned pattern based on our previous responses to the same cues.


Your response is dictated by the intensity of your craving and your ability to actually perform the desired behavior. 


If your craving is intense, and your ability is there, then the behavior will form.


Responses don’t happen when you’re craving is weak and your motivation to act is low. 


Let’s talk about anticipated rewards which add motivation and desire to take the actions you desire. 



4. Reward


A reward is an endpoint for any habit and is the driver for making a habit stick.


Let’s quickly review the three steps prior to a reward and how they contribute to it. 


  • Cue – anticipate a reward.
  • Craving – wanting a reward.
  • Response – getting the reward.


Each step is necessary in order to feed the next. 


The key benefit of a reward is it satisfies our craving and the emotions associated with it. 


Rewards help reinforce behaviors due to the emotional benefit we experience from them. 


The more intense and satisfying the emotion associated with the reward the more likely you will seek out to perform that same habit again. 



The Habit Loop


You can break down habits into two parts, the problem, and the solution.


image of the habit loop


The problem consists of the cue and the craving while the solution consists of the response and the reward. 


  • Problem = cue + craving.
  • Solution = response + reward.


Create a new habit by ensuring that all four parts are satisfied how’s the habit will not form.


  • No cue = the habit never starts.
  • No craving = no motivation exists.
  • No response = too difficult and it won’t happen.
  • No reward = no reason to do it again.


The beauty of this habit loop lies not just in using it to build new habits but also to break old ones. 



What To Do Next


If you came to this article you came to take action.


Below you’ll find a super simple yet effective framework for both building and breaking habits. 


How to Build a habit:


  • Make it obvious.
  • Make it attractive.
  • Make it easy.
  • Make it satisfying.


How to break a habit:


  • Make it invisible.
  • Make it unattractive.
  • Make it difficult.
  • Make it unsatisfying.


“Creating or destroying habits isn’t as difficult as you might think.”


The knowledge we’ve shared in this article gives you a much better understanding of how the whole process works.


Imagine each of the steps above as a lever.


You have the ability to manipulate each and to create the behavior change you desire. 


If you need help building or breaking habits we have a private coaching group whose main focus is to achieve this call.


You’ll find a link to getting interviewed on our private coaching group page. 


See you there!



Dr. Jay Cavanaugh
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