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As you’ve probably noticed, I’m a huge fan of habits!

They can honestly make such a big difference for anything that you want to achieve in your life.

I used to think that I’m fairly disciplined. But after giving it some thought, I noticed that most of that actually comes down to having the right habits in place.

Now you might ask: ok that’s great. But what exactly are habits?

Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

In case you’re in a hurry, here’s the short answer: Habits are routines and automated processes that your body and mind can execute without giving it an active thought. They always consist of three parts: trigger, routine and reward.

Now let’s take a closer look.

What exactly are habits?

So, as I’ve just said, habits are routines or rituals that you do without thinking about them.

These can be good of bad.

If we think about habits, we probably mostly think about bad habits, such as smoking, drinking or eating fast food.

We have lots of good habits as well, though. These are mostly things we don’t even realize we do, like taking the same way to work or brushing your teeth before going to bed.

Habits can generally be divided into conscious and hidden habits.

Btw, if you’d like to pick up a habit of being more productive, I highly recommend using the Pomodoro Technique. Get your free printable worksheet here to get started right away!

Download your free Pomodoro Technique printable!

Conscious habits

These are habits that happen automatically, but you still need to think a little bit to get them done.

These could be things like brushing your teeth in the morning or tying your shoelaces.

Conscious habits tend to be things you realize you do on a daily basis, whether they’re good or bad.

Hidden habits

The majority of our habits are hidden, though.

This means that it’s extremely difficult to actually notice that we have this behavior. Biting your nails is an example. Here are 2 more examples of hidden habits that will hinder your success at work.

This is something that happens completely on an unconscious level. People who bite their nails often don’t even realize when they’re doing it. So, stopping the behavior is almost impossible.

Biting nails is a classic example of a hidden habit which is why it's very difficult to change it
Biting nails is a classic example of a hidden habit which is why it’s very difficult to change it

How do habits form?

Now, the process of how habits are formed is always the same.

First, there’s a cue or a trigger that’s followed by the routine. And in the end, there’s a reward.

This is great news! Because if you’d like to change a bad habit into a good one, you can simply follow this 3-step-process.

Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power Of Habit calls this “the habit loop”.

I’ve covered the habit-building process in detail in my article about how habits are formed and how they can be changed. So, we’ll only take a quick look at it here.

Cue/trigger

Okay, so first of all there’s the cue or trigger.

This is something that tells your brain that it’s time for the automated behavior.

It’s usually something subtle and rarely anything super obvious.

For instance, the trigger to tie your shoelaces is to put your shoes on.

It’s that simple!

This happens automatically and you can perfectly use your brain for other things while doing it.

But whenever you put your shoes on, your brain knows: okay, time to tie those laces!

Routine

So, as you can see, the trigger is always followed by the routine.

Let’s take our example from above again. The routine in that case is to tie your laces.

As I’ve mentioned before, you can do this completely absent-minded. And yet, it works every time!

what exactly are habits
The habit loop consists of a trigger, a routine and a reward

Reward

The last step of the habit-building-process is the reward.

Now, in our shoelace example that’s not very obvious. It’s probably just to be ready to leave the house.

It becomes much more apparent if we’re looking at bad habits, though.

Let’s take smoking for instance. Why do people do that?

I don’t smoke personally, so frankly I don’t really know!

But from what I understand smoking relaxes you. It gives you a kind of relief. Plus, it’s a social activity where you get to go outside with your colleagues every few hours.

So, these are all positive things that act as a reward for this bad habit.

Now, if you’d like to change a bad habit into a good one, this is the process you need to follow.

If you’re able to find a trigger that happens on a daily basis and you find yourself a healthy reward, it will be much easier to change a behavior than if you simply tried it with willpower!

What are some examples of habits?

Let’s look at a few more examples of habits next. I find that examples make the whole theory much more comprehensible.

So, here are 10 examples of good habits and 10 examples of bad habits.

What are 10 good habits?

I’ve written another article about 14 good daily habits. Feel free to check it out if you need more inspiration.

But here are my top 10:

  1. Geting enough sleep
  2. Stop hitting the snooze button
  3. Making your bed every morning
  4. Drinking enough water
  5. Good time management
  6. Writing things down
  7. Exercising daily
  8. Eating healthy
  9. Always putting things back where you took them from
  10. Flossing before going to bed

What are 10 bad habits?

Now let’s look at 10 bad habits so that you can get a better understanding what we’re talking about.

  1. Smoking
  2. Excessive drinking
  3. Biting nails
  4. Picking your nose
  5. Swearing
  6. Eating fast food
  7. Drinking soda
  8. Excessive use of social media
  9. Watching too much TV
  10. Focusing on the negative

If the struggle with number 10, make sure to check out my article about how to get a positive mindset.

Smoking is a classic bad habit
Smoking is a classic bad habit

Why are habits important?

In case you’re not convinced, yet, let’s now take a look at why habits are so important.

Not only is it much easier to change a behavior. A habit can actually also act as a substitute for willpower.

Plus, it’s actually possible to exchange a bad behavior for a good one!

Habits can substitute willpower

Willpower is like a muscle. You can train it to make it stronger. However, you don’t have an unlimited amount of it.

So, why waste it on little things that you could easily replace with habits?

Yes, you read that right.

In order to pick up a new habit, you basically only need a little willpower and self-discipline in the beginning. After that, you can let the routine do the rest.

If you feel like you have no self-discipline, make sure to check out my article about how to become more disciplined.

Good habits make it much easier to live a healthy life

Everyone wants to have a healthy lifestyle, right?

But not everyone has the discipline to actually do it.

Well, guess what, habits can make this a whole lot easier!

Once you’ve established the 3-step process and you actually feel good about it, it becomes so much easier!

You’ll likely find that you can’t even imagine going back to a less healthy lifestyle. It’s just automated and it feels absolutely amazing!

Once you've established a habit loop for healthy habits, it's almost impossible to go back!
Once you’ve established a habit loop for healthy habits, it’s almost impossible to go back!

You can replace bad habits with good ones

The last reason why habits are important is that you can replace bad habits with good ones.

The thing about bad habits is that we often don’t even realize that we have them. They’re just deep down in our unconscious.

However, once we focus on why we have those routines, we can switch them around.

You can actually even use the same triggers but attach a different routine to it.

It will take time, of course. In fact, it takes an average of 66 days to build a habit!

But it’s possible and it’s still much easier than relying on willpower every single day!

Conclusion

So, what exactly are habits?

Well, habits are essentially routines caused by a trigger and followed by a reward.

This process is called the habit loop and it’s the same for every habit.

The good thing about that is that changing bad habits into good habits becomes much easier. Not only that, but habits can actually also act as a substitute for willpower or self-discipline.

Pretty amazing, huh?

Why don’t you start with building up the habit of good time management by using this free printable Pomodoro worksheet? =)

Download your free Pomodoro Technique printable!