How to Hack Your Life with Micro-Habits

Cory Mazure | 11 Dec, 2021


Love it or hate it, most of your day-to-day life is composed of habits that you have developed over the course of your life. The question is, are you composed of mostly good or bad habits? In order for us to correct our bad habits, we must first understand what a habit is. A habit is a behavior or minor action that has been repeated so many times, it becomes automatic. There is quite a bit of debate within the literature, but experts mostly agree that anywhere from 40-95% of your behaviors are because of habits you have formed. In essence, you are what you repeatedly do. Even small adjustments lead to big results as a 1% increase each day makes you 37 times better over the course of a year. Throughout this article, we will discuss how to make changes at the micro-level in order to make macro changes in the long run. 

4 Stages of Habit Formation

Before we can start breaking our bad habits and creating good habits, we must first understand the components of habits. As James Clear described in his book, “Atomic Habits,” there are 4 stages to habit formation. I will first explain the steps then give an example. 

The first stage is “The Cue” which indicted something that triggers your desire to fulfill a habit.  You are no longer occupied with the task at hand. This leads into stage two, “The Craving,” which is the feeling of wanting to pursue the habit. Stage three is, “The Response,” which is simply put as the habit. After executing the habit there is stage four, “The Reward,” which is how the habit makes you feel. 

In order to tie it all together, let’s walk through an example of the bad habit of going on a social media platform like Snapchat. The cue for going on Snapchat can be something like the feeling of boredom. If you are working on an essay or are uninterested in class, you will have a craving to pursue something that gives you a good reward.  Your response to the craving will be to use Snapchat as it is something that has given you good rewards in the past in the form of dopamine spikes. 

Hopefully, that example was helpful. Can you think of habits in your current life that can fall in this model?

How to Solidify a Habit Change

Now that we have an understanding of the stages of habit formation, let’s discuss the strategies that lead to positive habit changes. Each stage of habit formation can be analyzed, starting with the cue. The best way to incorporate a positive habit is to make the cue to do that habit extremely obvious. This can be done by putting items easily in your view, and incorporating reminders on your phone to do a task. After setting up the cue to be more obvious, try to make the craving more attractive. You do not want the good habit you are forming to feel like a punishment. Try to mentally convince yourself that the habit will provide benefits to your life and that it is worth doing.

The next step is to make the response easy. This can be done by removing obstacles that are preventing you from doing the desired habit. Want to go on a run but your running shoes are hidden in the closet? Bring them to a more obvious and easily accessible location. Try to also set up your environment to make it easier to achieve your goal. Want to go on a run tomorrow? Set out your clothes and running shoes in an obvious position. Lower the level of difficulty when you are first incorporating a new habit. If you want to incorporate running as a habit, start with a short 5-minute run. If you make your goals easier to achieve you will achieve them more often.

Once you start consistently achieving your goals, you can begin using the level of difficulty. The final step is to make the reward more satisfying. Healthy habits have their own rewards in how it makes your body feel. To add additional rewards, utilize an activity tracker to see how far you have come over time. Another strategy is to share your goals with others in order to gain encouragement and positive reinforcement. Follow these steps and see how helpful they are for solidifying habit changes. What habits in your life do you think could most benefit from this exercise?

Most Effective Way of Changing a Habit

Now that we have learned what makes up a habit and how to solidify a habit change, let’s go over the mentality change that is a necessity to change an existing habit. The change that needs to be made is within our identity. You must identify as someone who does the habit you desire. Your goal is not to read a book, but to become someone who reads books. Embrace the identity of the habits you want to incorporate and make the daily changes required in order to become that person. Embrace yourself in communities that echo the values of the habits you want to incorporate. If you want to become a runner join a local running Facebook group. This mindset shift is crucial to executing your beneficial habits.

What do you want to redefine yourself as?

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