In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg teaches how to break down the structure of a habit. There is a cue that triggers a routine. The completion of the routine provides a reward.

Habits can be quirky and inconsequential.

Creature habits:

Cue: My dog greets me when I walk into the house.
Routine: She jumps up until I pick her up, rub her back, and nuzzle her a bit.
Reward: We both enjoy the fellowship. Happens every time. Doesn’t contribute much to society. Makes me feel good.

Harmful habits:

Cue: Finish a meal
Routine: Fire up a cigarette.
Reward: Satisfying feeling that nicotine provides.

Habits that drive good results:

Cue: Alarm goes off.
Routine: Get up, get dressed, go for a walk.
Reward: Better health. Blood moving early creating more energy and awareness.

Here’s a secret about habits. The “cue” is powerful. If you have a habit that you want to change, you start by recognizing the organization of the habit. It has a cue. Identifying a cue helps you become mindful of managing your habit.

Likewise, if you want to create a new habit, identifying a cue that will push you to your new routine will help set the habit.

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to read through the Bible in a year.

I chose a cue (not because I knew to do so, I just got lucky). I love reading the newspaper in the morning. It’s a lifelong habit. When I wanted to change my reading habit, I used the cue of reading the newspaper to reinforce the new pattern. I pledged myself that I wouldn’t read the paper until I had completed the Bible reading.

So, I got up in the morning, got my coffee, and replaced the routine of reading the newspaper with a different routine of reading the Bible.

Cue: Read the paper.
Routine: Read the Bible first.
Reward: Mind lifted with better material (scripture is better than sports) etc. etc.

Eventually, this became my new habit. I did it for three years before I changed it.

So, you want to create better habits? Become a student of your cues.

Recognize them. Create them. Study what routines they evoke. Match them up with a better routine.

You’ll see a difference.