Have you ever wondered why successful people keep achieving what they want in their lives? It is because of their control of their habit and they know how to mould their habits according to their need. Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.”
Forbes reports that Bill Gates has been securing top in the list of the richest man in the world for four years in a row, and the richest person in the world for 18 out of the past 23 years.
Success does not come to those who occasionally do what their success needs. We need to do regularly what help us to achieve our goals to succeed in life. In other words, people need to make a habit that leads them to success. Successful people such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have been doing what they need to do to make their lives successful. If we analyse their life they have a habit that they have been practicing for years to achieve what they want.
For instance, reading more books is one of the factors that lead to success. That is what one habit is common to all successful people on this planet. All the successful people are the voracious reader. Bill Gates reads around 52 books in a year that breaks down into one book in a week. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg reads two books in a month. What’s more? Warren Buffett spends his 80% time reading various things from newspapers, magazines to books.
Since they know that habit of reading more is the key to success that is why they made it a habit and have been practising it for years without breaking it in between. They read wherever they are under any circumstances.
It is evident that success demands ‘habit’ of something that leads to it. It is necessary for us to know how a habit builds and how we can mould it to achieve our goals to be successful.
How does a habit build?
For instance, as we wake up we brush our teeth and feel fresh to start the day. We have been doing it every morning and it has become a habit of everyone around the world. We don’t think much before doing it. It just happens every day.
Charles Duhigg talks about the scientific mechanism of forming habits in his book ‘The Power Of Habit’. He says that to form any habit it takes three steps: Cue, Routine and Reward. Let’s understand these three aspects with the habit of brushing teeth every morning.
As soon as we wake up, we go to the washroom, pick up toothpaste and brush our teeth. After brushing our teeth we feel fresh. Why we do brush because we don’t feel the freshness in our mouth after waking up. Here feeling of staleness in the mouth is the cue, the work of brushing teeth is a routine and then feeling fresh and good is a reward. If we do not brush one day we don’t feel fresh and we feel that our mouth is not clean all day.
Wondering how it becomes a habit? It is just because, you feel staleness in your mouth after waking up in the morning (i.e cue). You crave for cleansing your teeth and mouth to feel fresh (i.e. you crave for a reward). You don’t crave for that reward any time in a day because you don’t feel something bad in your mouth. That is how a habit loop works.
How we can change a habit?
Let us take an example of an alcoholic person before we dive in techniques of changing habits. We need to understand how a person becomes an alcoholic as we discussed habit of brushing teeth in the morning.
Few year ago, Charles B. Towns Hospital for Drugs and Alcohol Addiction (AA) where a physician started researching how the habit of drinking alcohols forms in some people. After talking many alcoholics he revealed that they drink alcohol when they are tensed, worried and tired. While interviewing alcoholics it got revealed that they feel relaxed and out-of-worry when they drink alcohols.
In this case, tension and worry is the cue that leads an alcoholic to drink alcohol which is a routine. After drinking they feel relaxed which is a reward.
AA thought that if the reward is provided by some other routine then the habit of drinking alcohol will vanish. For this, AA made a group of people including alcoholics who can actually discuss each others’ lives, work and problems which will provide alcoholics relief. If they get relief by sharing their problems with the group then they will not consume alcohols.
Charles writes in his book that an estimated 2.1 million people seek help from AA each year and as many as 10 million alcoholics may have achieved sobriety through the group.
Neither cue nor reward is wrong in the habit of consuming alcohol. What is wrong is drinking alcohol which is a ‘routine’. If we can change routine to satisfy the cue then we can change our habit.
For instance, as soon as we hear buzz over the cell phone (i.e cue) we tend to check (crave for reward) if it is a message or mail. As soon we checked it we feel good (i.e reward). We check the cell phone no matter if we are reading books or busy in some work.
On the other hand, if we put our cell phone on silent mode while reading books we will not hear any buzz and we will keep reading book hours and hours without any distraction. We will not crave for checking messages and emails.
That is how we can change our habit to achieve what we want. Figure out cue, routine and reward. If the routine is bad then figure out what other good things can provide you reward and then do practice the good routine in order to get the same reward to eliminate the bad habit.