How to Break Bad Habits

November 3, 2016

Fair warning: the video below is about cookies. Or, rather, not eating cookies. Or, to be completely precise, about the process of breaking the habit of eating cookies, which, in turn is a process that can be applied to almost any habit you'd like to rid yourself of as you pursue your life goals. Which, if you know anything about the sort of things we cover on this blog, is exactly the kind of thing we're interested in.

If you don't want to watch the video, which comes to us via the NY Times and features author Charles Duhigg talking about his battle against his afternoon cookie habit, here's the key takeaway: breaking any habit is about understanding the motivation behind it—whether it lie in the cue, the routine, or reward that the behavior brings.

 

In Duhigg's case, it turns out that his 3pm cookie cravings weren't about cookies at all: what he really wanted to do was to socialize with his colleagues for a few minutes. The cookie was merely a by-product of that—an excuse to leave his desk and hang out in a different location to allow the socializing to happen. By coming to that realization, Duhigg was able to cut the part of the habit he was unhappy about (the calorie consumption), while retaining the part that he actually was deriving satisfaction from (the socializing).

Of course, not all habits are as simple as this one, but Duhigg's framework is definitely worth investigating if there's a habit that you'd like to work on changing in your own life. Who knows: perhaps a bit of introspection and some experimentation are all that are standing between you and the end of a habit that you'd rather not have.

by Phil Stott

Chicago City Hall
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