How to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

"You'll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine." – John C. Maxwell

According to James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, there are four-step loop that underlies our behaviour: cue, craving, response, and reward. When this loop is repeated, it can form new habits in our life. To build or break habits we need to modify each step of the habit loop. This blog post is more or less summary of Atomic Habits.

James Clear's Habit Loop : Cue, Craving, Response, Reward

James' work was actually heavily influenced by Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit, which uses three-step loop: cue, routine, reward. Both James and Charles are great author. Charless' framework is simpler, but James' explanation is more systematic.

Charless Duhig's Habit Loop : Cue, Routine, Reward

The key to building lasting good habits is focusing on creating a new identity first. Our current behaviors are simply a reflection of our current identity. Start with changing the identity (what we believe we are), then changing the process (what we do), then changing the outcome (what we get).

Good habits will bring positive compounding for our life especially in productivity, knowledge, and relationship. To build good habits we need to emphasize all four steps in habit loop in a positive way.

  1. Cue: Make it obvious
  2. Craving: Make it attractive
  3. Response: Make it easy
  4. Reward: Make it satisfying

In the other hand, bad habits will bring negative compounding such as stress, negative thoughts, and outrage. To break a bad habit we need to emphasize those four steps in a negative way.

  1. Cue: Make it invisible
  2. Craving: Make it unattractive
  3. Response: Make it difficult
  4. Reward: Make it unsatisfying