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How to Hack Your Habits


There are tonnes of ways you can work towards feeling better. The crux of all of this though, is habits.

Let’s not walk before we can run: what is a habit? “A routine of behaviour that’s repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously.”

Our human wiring makes us lean towards repetition. Habits make up 40-45% of our daily behaviours. So… half of everything we do is habitual.

We have bad habits; we have good ones. Both are equally important to understand in order for us to better ourselves.

There’s a guy called James Clear — arguably the habit King. He describes a habit as this chain of events.

The different stages of habits

Cue > Craving > Response > Reward = Habit

Let’s break that down.

Cue: the trigger that tells your brain to do something.

The main examples of cues are: time/ location/ people/ emotional states. Time and location are pretty obvious (what you do first thing in the morning, or what you do when you leave work), but the latter two could use some examples:

Examples of ‘Person’ Cues:

Good: You train with Dianne because she’s a beast and won’t let you quit as she knows you’ve got one more rep in you.

‘Bad’: You go out with Dave on a Friday night and he buys “cheeky” Sambuca shots with every pint, because, well, that’s what Dave does…

Examples of ‘Emotional State’ Cues:

Good: You get great news; you call your partner to share it with them.

‘Bad’: You get bad news and dive headfirst into a so-called ‘sharesize’ bag of Doritos. They never get shared.

Tell me what a craving is then

Craving: Cool, this is the next step. As people, we don’t act unless there’s a motivation to change how we feel. James describes the craving as follows, “you don’t want to turn on the television, you want to be entertained.”

This applies to everything, so think about what your habits say about the way you feel. Take exercise, for example. We know full well that a good session makes us feel better afterwards. That’s why we do it.

Response and reward

Response: This is the part where you actually do the task. It’s either a thought – calling yourself an idiot as you forget to note down your squat reps – or an action – leaving your dirty breakfast bowl full of oats in the sink rather than WASHING IT UP. Uh… for example.

Reward: The final part of the habit cycle: the outcome. Our personal favourite is seeing steam pour from your head after a tough workout in the freezing cold.

Next Steps

To sum up, “the cue triggers a craving, which motivates a response, which provides a reward, which satisfies the craving, and ultimately becomes associated with the cue.” Put these together and you’ve got yourself a loop in your brain. This is how you form an automatic habit. Now you know this, and the individual steps involved, it’s time for action.

Pick one day this week and list out every single thing you do in a given day. Right from when you wake up to when you go to sleep. Once you’ve got your list, take a look at all the tiny habits that together make up your life.

Make your day purposeful

We go through so much of our life on autopilot without considering the effect of our actions. Take a look at that list and ask yourself: are you living life in a way that makes you happy or are your decisions annoying you?

(Brain) food for thought. We’ll be back soon with more insight on habits, and how you can use them to make your goals a reality.