I’m reading Self-Discipline: a guide to taking control of your mind, your time, and your life by Mark Manson and it’s given me cause to think about my habits. Following on from The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, he reminds us that habits are built from

flowchart LR
cue --> routine
routine --> reward

and attaching routine to a cue is the way to build rewarding habits.

Here are some of mine, good and bad.

  • Daily meditation (cue = finishing breakfast on a weekday). Building day by day I’m now over 43,000 minutes of meditation time. I sit with my headphones and Headspace app for 30 minutes. Easily now, every day. But, at the start I didn’t do 30 minutes every day. It was usually more like 10 or 15. Sometimes even just 1. And that’s what was important to building the habit. Not the time each day, but the each day each day. I don’t meditate on weekends. My routine, and so the cue, is different.
  • To save money and get healthier I now eat a tin of salmon on dry biscuits at lunch time (cue = midday at work). By purchasing enough food to last a week, there was less temptation to spend money on expensive take-away lunches. As soon as I finish (cue) I head out for a 30-45 minute walk. BUT some of my walks are taking me past a takeaway store that sells potato cakes. If it’s cold (cue) and I walk past (cue) I’ll buy some. Not the best for my health. But hey, I did eat the salmon so that’s okay isn’t it. Sometimes it’s a sausage roll (or 2) from a bakery.

Two examples. One that works in my favour and another that I’m sabotaging. What works in both cases is the cue. My learning is that if there is a behaviour I don’t like, rather than try to change it with willpower alone, I need to spend some time to find the cue that’s the trigger.