Script & Storyboard
A habit is a fixed way of thinking that leads to automatic behavior. [1] The benefit is we don’t have to rethink again and again what to do. It just happens and can have good side effects [2]. But a bad habit can also hurt us [3] or hold us back from progressing [4]. Although, like anything, we can learn and unlearn them. [5] But first, let's try to understand where they come from. [6]
Habits are made by experiences creating fixed ways of thinking inside our brain [1]. To explain this, let's compare what happens inside your brain to what happens on a farm [2]. There is a farmer named Joe, [3.1] his vegetable garden, [3.2] the chicken shed [3.3] and a mailbox [3.4]. Every morning farmer Joe first walks to the vegetables [4.1], then checks on his chickens [4.2], then collects his mail [4.3] and then walks back to the house [4.4]. After a few days of this routine, his trace becomes more visible on his farm [5]. After a few months, the trace becomes fixed pathways [P]. Not only on his farm, but also inside his brain. [6]
One night Joe has a magical dream where he discovers his love with all living creatures [1]. The next day he sets all of his chickens free [2]. The funny thing is though, instead of adjusting his behavior, he still walks blindly from the vegetable garden to the chicken shed [3]. The trace on the ground, [4.1] and inside Joe’s brain are now just too deep. [4.2] To leave the path of habit, we have to go down a new road [5]. This takes time [6.1] multiple repetitions of our new desired behavior [6.2] and willpower to keep going. [6.3].
A habit is often a response to a certain trigger, [1.1] which follows a routine [1.2] and usually ends with a reward. [1.3] This is also called a habit loop [1.4]. Joe’s trigger are the vegetables. As soon as he waters the last tomato [2.2], he starts his next routine [2.3] to automatically walk to the chickens [2.4]. His reward is to find eggs. [3] And because rewards release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes our brain first happy and then hooked, [4.1] we get stuck and can’t let go anymore. [4.2]
Joe's sister lives in the city. She has a funny habit. [1] Whenever she hears her phone, [2.1] she automatically looks at the screen. [2.2] Most of the time it's just a random irrelevant message [3]. This happens even if something far more important was happening right in that moment [4]. The sound from the phone [5.1] triggers a routine in the hope for a sweet reward [5.6] and some of that addictive dopamine [5.7].
To change a habit, journalist Charles Duhigg recommends redesigning the habit loop [1]. Say you like going to the movie theater, but whenever you do, you eat too much of that sweet popcorn. [2] In this case your trigger is the popcorn stand that you pass by whenever you go to the movies. [3]Your routine is buying that popcorn. [4] And your reward is snacking during the film. [5] To change your habit, you could keep the trigger [6.1] and keep the reward, [6.2] but replace the routine. [P] Instead of sweet, get salty popcorn. [7] Later maybe even fruits. [8]
If a problem gets very serious [1], remove the trigger. Stop buying movie tickets. [2] If we can’t leave our phone alone, [3.1] we can turn off all the notifications [3.2]. And if we have friends that get us into situations that can trigger a bad habit, [4.1] we can make new friends that don’t. [4.2]
Some habits are tricky. Procrastination for example. There is no clear trigger, routine or reward. It just happens. [1] Habits like that can be changed in tiny steps that leads to small rewards. [2] Next time you procrastinate, try to make some short breaks [3.1] in which you focus. [3.2] Your trigger can be the full hour on your clock. [4] Once you hear it, focus on your work [5.1] even if it is just for 5 minutes. [5.2] After, reward yourself with a piece of chocolate. [5.3] The very first day you do that, you will already create some new traces in your brain [6.2] and the next day [6.3] some more [6.4]. After a few weeks, it will be easy to walk down that road. [7]
Many small steps added together, make a big difference over time. [1.1] After all, we still have our entire life in front of us. [1.1] And to becomes successful, good habits are probably our best bet. [1.4] As the famous poet John Dryden wrote: [2] “We first make our habits, [3.2] and then our habits make us.” [3.2] Tell us. Have you ever learn or unlearned a habit? Please share your experience in the comments below! [4]
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