Since the day we are born, we have established routines, whether we think of them as such or not. Our behaviors are a result of our upbringing and our environment. Let’s take a simple task we do without notice: brushing our teeth. For most of us, our parents made sure we brushed our teeth twice a day, usually in the morning and evening. They consistently made sure we did until it became routine. I remember my mother asking me every morning before school and in the evening before bed, “Did you brush your teeth?” Because I anticipated the question, I completed the action.
But let’s be honest. Our parents are not going to follow us around and make sure we establish a routine for everything we do in life. (Side note: if your parents are doing that now for you, you need to get a serious reality check!) So how do we establish a routine and why is it beneficial? Based on my experience, establishing a routine or habit is the most reassuring thing you can do to get on the path to success. If you want to lose weight, make more money, stop drinking, start a new job or accomplish some other goal, establishing a routine will assure that you consistently work towards achieving success. The best way to do this is to create the habit loop.
A habit loop, according to The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, is made up of three elements: a trigger, an action and a reward. Every habit can reference back to this loop. Understanding this will get you closer to creating your next good habit and making it routine.
Let’s look at the role of the parent. Parents develop routines with their children to establish a foundation. This foundation is what shapes us to be who we are and act the way that we do (to an extent). Think about the toothpaste example. My mother was the one to implement the habit loop without me even knowing. The trigger was either waking up or getting ready for bed, the action was brushing my teeth and the reward was a happy mother. It worked every time! We all know the action that usually needs to take place. But what about the trigger or the reward?
In my opinion, the trigger that causes the habit to initiate is the most important aspect of the cycle to figure out. Only you can figure out what triggers your desire in order to get the reward. One of the worst triggers for habits is instant gratification. In the world we live in, our triggers and rewards quite often come in the form of instant gratification. You can’t unlock your smartphone without seeing multiple different icons alerting you that you have new email, Facebook comments, Instagram likes, Snapchat photos, etc. We get hooked on the trigger of smartphone notifications and we immediately check our phones to get our reward (instant gratification). Triggers are not easy (if not impossible) to change. So recognize what your triggers are and figure out what you can do to create an action or eliminate the trigger to create a new habit.
When trying to set routine, look for a reward you desire. It has to be something that pushes you through the tough times of not wanting to do the task. Every reward comes with the release of endorphins into the brain. Not everything has to be in the form of a physical gift. Think of Fitbit, for example. Let’s say you want to become healthier. Well, Fitbit has positioned itself to help you live a healthy lifestyle and reward you when you hit your goals. As you hit your step goal, your Fitbit vibrates and congratulates you. Users get used to wearing the bracelet and release endorphins when they achieve their goal.
All in all, creating a new routine is simple. It’s not easy but it is simple. Focus on your trigger. What triggers your action? Is it something you want to change? And if so, are you going to change the action or the reward? Figure out those elements and you can create habits and routines that get you on the right path to success.