How do I form a good habit?

So now that schools are reopening, many of us have more time to ourselves. And it’s a great time of year to make new resolutions.

Maybe you want to practice your instrument more?

Save more of your income? Exercise more?

The thing is, no matter how good the intentions, willpower runs out eventually.

So in order to convert those good intentions into results, given we won’t be able to rely on that willpower forever, we should instead use the willpower while it’s strong to form a good habit.

A habit is made up of three distinct parts – a cue, a routine and a reward. It’s called the habit loop. When I see CUE, I will do ROUTINE in order to get a REWARD.

For example, when my phone buzzes, I will pick it up and check my messages in order to satisfy my craving to read the message. Thus emerges the habit of picking up my phone as soon as it buzzes.

But if we are aware of how this habit loop works, we can also use it to our advantage to help us form habits. Let’s take practicing our instrument as an example.

The routine in question here is doing, let’s say 30 mins practice. And so the challenge is to find a cue and a reward that will help us carry out this routine regularly.

The cue needs to trigger our brain – so it could be when you wake up for example. Or when you return to the house after dropping the children to school. Or once dinner is finished. Or when your work is done at the office but before you go home. The key is to make it consistent and clear. It will depend on your daily routine, and on where your practice instrument resides, but everyone should be able to identify a cue.

The reward then must be satisfying. And it probably needs to be more than simply the satisfaction of completing the task. Maybe it’s that you get to watch Netflix once you’re finished. Or that you allow yourself a treat, or that you can look at social media but only after your practice has been completed.

This is of course applicable to plenty of other fields besides musical practice. But why not put some decent thought into this, create the right cue and reward for yourself, and you will find yourself in a great habit in no time.

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