Hello I’m Johnny Mac, today we are going to talk about habits, where do they come from, how do they form, and how we can change them. Now let’s get started.

Where we are in life is a combination of the five people closest to us, our ability to learn, and our daily habits. It is estimated that over 40% of our daily decisions are actually habits. In a real sense, we live almost a quarter of our lives on autopilot so it’s vital that we set up our habits to help us reach our success.

Where do habits come from?

They are formed in a cluster of cells near the base of the brain, called the basal ganglia.

Habits make us smarter. Habits run on autopilot and free up the brain to work on more unique problems.

Autonomy of a Habit

Habits have three parts: a trigger, a routine, and a reward

Triggers are often taken in through our senses. Something we: see, hear or smell but a memory can also be a trigger.

Routine: Pretty self-explanatory, this is the part that either helps or hurts your chance of having a successful life.

Reward: food, drinks, sex, drugs, and exercise all release dopamine, which creates a feeling of euphoria in the brain. This dopamine hit acts as a reward, and it’s why we can become addicted to them if we are not careful. This is the reason athletes keep training and competing even when at times it can be physically painful and inconvenient. Their brains know there is a reward waiting for them at the end. This is something we are going to learn to use to our advantage a little later on.

How are they created

The brain tries to be efficient and will turn almost any repeated pattern into a habit.

When we first start building a new habit our brains work very hard. Think of the first time you tried to tie your shoe, how hard it was at first. As it becomes more established our brains work less and less.

It can take on average 28 days of repeating a pattern to form it into a new habit.

Every time we repeat a pattern our brains grow a stronger connection between the trigger and the reward.

What is the best way to change a bad habit?

On our journey to change habits we have to briefly visit another part of the brain.

The amygdala is one of the first areas of our brain that forms, it’s very close to the brain stem. I’m going to refer to this area as the Guard. Its role is to keep the smart area (The cerebral cortex) efficient and protect it from becoming overloaded. It is the area that determines fight or flight. It’s fast, and it will either allow information through or mark it for destruction. When it’s confronted with new or threatening information like: I’m going to start overwriting my habits, it will react quickly and negatively. An example of this is, if you have ever heard someone refer to their: comfort zone. This area is also the reason we detest change.

Creating a new habit is difficult. 

Because we know the guard brain is not going like sending this new habit up to be processed, we have to find a way to trick it. Setup: small, medium, and large rewards. A small one might be daily like: after I workout in the morning, I get a delicious fruit smoothie. Setting up a reward like if I go to the gym every day this week I can go watch that movie I’ve been waiting for. Start small, and build up with harder goals and better rewards. If you can picture the reward at the end you can trick the guard brain to let it through in anticipation of a dopamine response.

A positive reward is key to change

Research shows that changing the routine while keeping the trigger and reward the same is the most effective way to change a habit. Focus on creating new keyframe habits and they will overwrite unhealthy ones. Creating a schedule, and setting phone reminders can help us form new patterns that if repeated can turn into new habits.

So the power to change is yours, let me know how it goes and good luck!

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