What’s Your Cue?

In his book, “The Power of Habit”, Charles Duhigg teaches how to break down the structure of a habit.

There is a “cue” which triggers a “routine”. The completion of the routine provides a “reward”.

Habits can be quirky and inconsequential.  Creature habits such as:

Cue: my dog greets me when I walk in 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 the society. Makes me feel good.

Some can be harmful.

Cue: finish a meal

Routine: fire up a cigarette.

Reward: satisfying feeling that nicotine provides

But, then there are others, 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 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 the Bible, the whole thing, in a year.

I choose a cue (not because I knew to do so, I 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 habit.

I made a pledge to 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 stuff (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.