What's a Habit Anyway?

by crystal wilson


Here we are again - right in the eye of the “back to routine” storm.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - this time of year feels more like a fresh start than the New Year. It seems to get lots of us thinking about what habits will help us reach our goals, and which ones we have adopted that are hindering our progress.  




I’ve always found it hard to actually identify what habits I have - which makes sense because eventually our habits just become our lifestyle, so they can kind of hide in plain sight if you aren’t intentional about them.  


So, let’s break it down - what is a habit anyway?  


According to James Clear, a habit consists of four parts (full disclosure - until last week I only knew of 3 part feedback loops related to habits but incorporating the 4th really struck a chord with me - thanks James!):  


1. Cue           2. Craving              3. Response                4. Reward


These 4 factors can work together to create a very noticeable habit, for example:

  1. Cue: You are at a virtual networking event. Another attendee mentions a reference to something indicating that you have a common interest.  
  2. Craving: You recognize this person as a good connection for you, and want to develop a relationship with them
  3. Response:  You send a LinkedIn connection request, including a message referencing the event you both attended and the common interest
  4. Reward: You have initiated what could be a great new connection with this individual - who knows where it could lead?! 


They can also work together to create the habits that conspire together to become your everyday regular old life, for example:

  1. Cue: You sit down at your workspace with your morning coffee
  2. Craving: You want to have a productive day, working towards your identified priorities
  3. Response: You open up your task management system (notebook, agenda, google calendar, project management software, whatever you use) and orient yourself to what you have laid out for your day. You proceed accordingly.
  4. Reward:  You have the unparalleled joy of checking things off, but more importantly you accomplish what  you set out to, and are one day closer to achieving your goals


Your life as a whole is made up of a whole bunch of habits you have picked up - for better or worse.  Instead of allowing yourself to be dragged along by these frequently subconscious actions, take charge!  Identify what habits are dictating your happiness and productivity on a day to day basis.  Some of them are probably awesome and serve you and your goals incredibly well...but others?  Maybe not so much. 

Celebrate the great habits you have created, and take action to change the ones that don’t serve you by eliminating one of the four parts of the habit loop - no completed loop = no habit.  Easier said than done, I know, but you can do hard things!  So get to it! 

If you’ve got any tried and true methods for making or breaking habits, particularly related to productivity or goal smashing, we want to hear them -  Drop me a note here to tell me all about it - we will feature some in a future piece of content.