Answer. I didn’t have to decide. It was an automatic habit

If you read my previous blog , then would have learned that weighing the pros and cons and making decisions is a higher order conscious brain function.  In contrast, a habit is an action that requires little or no contemplation. You just do it because you have already been doing it and repeating it constantly and consistently. Just think about the opportunities for growth and development when the learning/training  process becomes an automatic one.

So what is the formula for creating a new automatic habit? Its the same formula for replacing a bad habit with a good one. James Clear, Charles Durhigg and Patrick Edblad are authors who have extensively researched habits and documented their findings in their bestselling books. I will summarize their findings and apply them to my  volcano model.

Durhiggs basic formula from The Power of Habit consists of constructing a simple 3 part feedback habit loop .The structural framework is deliberately set up as a reminder so that the routine action follows and a reward is given to positively reinforce the mindset in the hopes that the cycle will be driven upward to repeat itself over and over again. James Clear called it the 3 Rs. Reminder routine Reward. (Charles Durhigg refered to it as cues). Notice how is it directly relates to the 3 faces of  the model. Reminder=Structural environment, routine = action steps, reward= positive mindset reinforcement. Everything always comes back to the model so always link back to it and you will remember how all the pieces fit together as you learn more.

James Clear also describes setting up this reminder(CUE) with deliberate structural intention. He calls it choice architecture. It means to choose or arrange the environment to an optimum advantage so that you will be reminded of the desired routine you wish to develop. I will demonstrate with this example. Lets suppose that you want to start and develop an automatic routine habit of jogging for 20 minutes every morning.

First step- make sure your mindset is completely on board with this objective(you always ask and answer why? you want to do this and you must have a compelling reason that reflects your inner values and beliefs)

Step 2. Set up the structural environment to optimize the REMINDER. In this case, it could involve using  an alarmed set time to jog early in the morning (if that is what you personally value). You could also design your wardrobe so that your jogging suit and shoes are visibly in front of your bedroom door and are automatically seen when you attempt to leave the room in the morning. Set a reminder on your cell phone that notifies you to jog and link it with an already existing daily habit of checking your morning emails

Step3. Execute the jog. Do it knowing that it may not feel good because you are not in shape yet. Accept the inertia forces that resist your body from moving easily. Expect mild discomfort and shortness of breath. Expect the need to have to slow down and walk some of the way. Condition yourself to continue to move for the full 20 minutes even if you only jog for 4 of them at first. Small incremental wins are the best when building a habit

Step4. Find a suitable reward to positively mentally reinforce your successful efforts. (no, not chocolate or candy if your objective is a healthy lifestyle). An appropriate reward may be getting daily acknowledgement from a spouse or partner. Another fun one is to use phone apps or fitbits that record your habit streak and acknowledge and count your progress. Anything that raises your initial mindsets conscious desire and motivation to repeat the steps the next day.

Durhiggs research showed that at the beginning of the habit training cycle, the brain activity is heightened  during the initial Reminder step and the final Reward step. It is crutial to understand the significance of this. Before a habit becomes truly automatic, there must be initial , deliberate conscious effort to ensure the routine takes place. In other words, you are recruiting your higher conscious prefrontal cortex to organize your structural environment initially. Once it is effectively set up, it is a good practice to vary it every week or so in order not to get too accustomed or desensitized to the same reminders.

Lastly, the most important key to the success is the streak itself. It is even  more important than the quality of execution of the activity. its better to have a bad jog than to miss a day. Why? because you must remember that you are building and establishing those nerve connections and pathways. The success of those connections hinges solely on the repetition.  Nerve Action potentials keep firing and hard wiring when constantly and consistently stimulated through repetition. I cant stress this factor enough . Don’t just practice . Practice consistently. Practise daily. Keep the streak! and allow the positive results to be the inevitable conclusion of the effort.

Can you think of a simple 3 part habit loop you could apply to an aspect of your life you would like to improve.? Hint: pick an easy one first(like making your bed or flossing every night). Make sure its important to you. Be selective. As you get better at this with daily practice you can move on to another more challenging one. Build a habit muscle.