5 Triggers That Make New Habits Stick

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In his best-selling book, The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg breaks down an easy three-step process that all habits follow. This cycle, known as “The Habit Loop,” states each habit consists of:

  1. The Trigger: the event that starts the habit.

  2. The Routine: the behavior that you perform, the habit itself.

  3. The Reward: the benefit that is associated with the behavior.

     

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Each phase of the loop is critical to building new habits, however, James Clear, author of Transform Your Habits, focuses on the first factor: habit triggers. Clear lists five primary ways that a new habit can be triggered.

Trigger 1: TIME

Time is most common way to trigger a new habit. Take for example, common morning habits. Waking up in the morning usually triggers a routine of behaviors—going to the bathroom, shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, etc.

Trigger 2: LOCATION

Clear claims this is the most powerful driver of mindless habits and also the least recognized of the five triggers. Have you ever waltzed into the kitchen to find yourself eating a brownie because a tray of sweets was left out on the counter? This is precisely how the location trigger works. In many cases, our behaviors are simply a response to our environment.

Trigger 3: PRECEDING EVENT

Of course, many habits are a direct response to something that has happened in your life. Your phone beeps, so you pick it up to check your messages. Clear believes this trigger to be the most useful and encourages the use of “habit stacking,” a way to tie new habits into preceding events.

Trigger 4: EMOTIONAL STATE

Emotional state seems to be a common trigger for bad habits, such as overeating when you feel depressed or binge drinking when stressed. Clear points to emotional states of depression or boredom as negative habit triggers making them difficult to control and encourages you to pay keen attention to your emotions.

Trigger 5: OTHER PEOPLE

This one is obvious and goes with the whole, “the company you keep,” saying. The people you surround yourself with can easily play a role on your habits and behaviors. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine found that if your friend becomes obese, then your risk of obesity increases by 57 perecent—even if that friend lives nowhere near you.

Before Choosing Your Trigger

Now, if you’re planning to start a new routine and would like to employ these triggers to help motivate new habits, make sure to pick a trigger that is very specific and immediately actionable. For example, if you decide you’re going to do 100 squats each night, try making it more specific. Instead, you’re better off saying, “I will do 100 squats after I brush my teeth.”

Now, if you’re planning to start a new routine and would like to employ these triggers to help motivate new habits, make sure to pick a trigger that is very specific and immediately actionable. For example, if you decide you’re going to do 100 squats each night, try making it more specific. Instead, you’re better off saying, “I will do 100 squats after I brush my teeth.”
For further reading visit: JamesClear.com

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