#YAP Snacks: Habit Formation 101

#YAP Snacks: Habit Formation 101

What if the world’s habit experts told you how to form new habits, better? Or how we can replace the bad habits we’ve fallen into a routine rut with? On today’s YAP Snacks, we’ll hear snippets of actionable takeaways from previous interviews with habit experts like Charles Duhigg, Jeff Haden, Mark Batterson, and more! So if you’re wanting to revamp your daily habit routine, or take accountability for changing bad habits, tune into this episode to hear from the absolute EXPERTS on building and breaking habits!

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#YAPSnacks: Habit Formation 101 Transcript

You're listening to yap young and profiting podcast, a place where you can listen, learn, and profit. Welcome to the show. I'm your host, Hala Taha, and on young and profiting podcast, we investigate a new topic each week and interview some of the brightest minds in the world. My goal is to turn their wisdom into actionable advice that you can use in your everyday life.

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Our subject matter ranges from enhancing productivity, how to gain, influence the art of entrepreneurship and more if you're smart and like to continually improve yourself, hit the subscribe button because you'll love it here at young and profiting podcast. Hey everyone, you are listening to yap snacks, a series of bite size content hosted by me, Hala Taha.

So we're a little over halfway into 2022, and I don't know about you all, but one of my goals for this year was to create better habits and the time is starting to tick as we're coming up on the middle of summer. I thought it'd be a great time to check in with where we're at and revisit how we can. Bad habits and actually make the good one stick in terms of my bad habits.

I've got my fair share and I'm sure all of you do as well. Personally, I don't get enough sleep. I'm programmed to stay up later than I should. And my first instinct when I'm hungry is to order out rather than cook. A healthy home cooked meal. And I really hope to change these bad habits into good ones so I can get better sleep and stay in killer shape because I'm only getting older and eating out is definitely gonna catch up to me one day.

I'm sure. And in my opinion, healthy habits are what allows us to be the very best versions of ourselves because habits have more power in our day to day than. People think in fact, many of the actions we do every day are habits. According to a study by duke university, researchers found that about 45% of the activities people did were performed nearly each day under the same circumstances.

This is crazy. Think about it from the moment that you get up each day, about half of your actions are already predetermined by the innate habits that you've formed consciously or not half. The things that you do are not under your control. They are habits and habits go beyond just brushing your teeth.

They can be everything from when you wake up to how frequently you check your phone and when you check it and even the foods that you eat. So maybe you're like me and you wanna form healthier habits. You wanna be the best version of yourself, but you're not sure where you should exactly start. Luckily for you.

I've had some of the most world renowned habit experts here on young and profiting podcasts. So the team has rounded up their most actionable guidance on how to form better habits, replace bad ones, and how to train our brains to actually. The habits that we're trying to create. It's important that we're deliberate.

When we're looking to create a new pattern in our life, whether you wanna exercise more, spend less time on your phone, forming a new habit is essentially rewiring a part of your brain. We can't just hope a habit will catch on. We need to consciously implement the actions until they become automatic.

Back in episode number 1 46, I had Charles Duhig on yap, who is literally the top expert on forming and maintaining habits. He's also the author of the extremely popular book, the power of habit. And in this first clip, Charles gives us the high context science behind why habits form and where they live in our brains.

So one of the oldest structures in our brain is named the basal ganglia and every animal on earth has a basal ganglia, the basal ganglia, it's kind of almost at the center of the brain, near the, the brain stem where you're, where your spinal colon meets your brain. And the basal ganglia basically exists to create habits.

And, and the reason why the basal gangly exists and why every animal has one is because without this ability to create habit, We would never have evolved, right? The, the capacity to take a behavior and make it automatic is essential for the development of higher thought. So if when you walked down a path, you saw a rock and an apple, and you had to think really hard to decide which one to put in your mouth.

Well, then you would spend your entire day trying to. Evaluate rocks and apples, but because it becomes a habit, oh, the red one is the one that I can stick in my mouth. The gray one is the one that I should kick to the side. That's how you can get the, the free space within your brain to think up fire and building homes, and then aircraft carriers and video games, right.

This ability to take behaviors and make them automatic, make them into habits. That is how every species. Excels. And so it's a really important and really valuable skill. And, and it's amazing that humans can take the most complex behaviors and make them habitual. But it also means that because we essentially stop thinking in the middle of a habit that unless we're deliberate about which habits we let into our lives, that things might go astray.

Like Charles said, humans have evolved to the point where we can make almost any complex action habitual. So if we've been doing it for so long unconsciously, how then do we form a habit consciously or purposefully? Well, it turns out there's a scientific process to the creation of habits and it isn't just one action or idea, but rather it's three different steps.

These three components for habit formation are Q routine and. Here's Charles again, to tell us how each component works within the brain and how putting them together can help us build a healthier habit. So, as you mentioned, we tend to think of a habit as one thing. Right? But it's actually these three separate things.

There's a, there's a cue, which is like a trigger for an automatic behavior to start. And then, and then the routine, which is the behavior itself, what we think of as the habit and then there's the reward. And every habit in your life has a reward, whether you're aware of it or not. It's that reward that the basal ganglia latches onto in order to, to make that behavior a.

It's because you anticipate that reward. So when you back your car out of the driveway, you know, the first time you back your car outta the driveway, you really have to concentrate on it very hard, but you know, the, by the fifth or sixth or ninth time, you can kind of almost do it on autopilot, right? You don't have to pay that much attention.

That's because it's become a habit. And what's important is that if we could see inside your brain, when you back the car out, out of the driveway, Your brain is anticipating a reward and sure enough, when you safely make it into the street and start driving away, there's a little, little squirt of neuro reward, neurotransmitters, dopamine, and, and other other chemicals that sort of make yourself feel good and like a sense of reward.

You're not aware of that reward sensation, but your brain is aware of it. And, and our brain pays attention to rewards and punishments, and it makes the things that happen that give us a reward. More automatic, easier to access. And so that's really important because what we know is, you know, when most people think about changing their habits, they focus on the behavior on the routine.

But what we now know from a lot of studies is that it's the queues and the rewards that are really the tools that give us the, an ability to change the, the behavior. And so if you diagnose the queue and the reward driving a particular habit, that's how you can change it. Let's hold that thought and take a quick break with our sponsors.

So there you go. We can nail down forming new habits into a three step process. It's really that simple science has proven it. And like Charles said, when you wanna change your behavior, you don't need to focus on the action itself. Rather you focus on the cue and the reward. A habit. Queue is something that can trigger a habit.

They typically look like a location, a time of day, other people, an emotional state, or an immediately preceding action. For example, every time around noon. When you walk by the break room at work, you smell brewing coffee and. You're triggered to wanna have a cup. The reward is the result of the action, and it's a positive reinforcement that makes us more likely to repeat that behavior rewards come in all shapes and sizes and can be something tangible or intangible in this coffee break example, it's getting a caffeine boost.

It can even be something you place value on, even though it has no inherent value, like checking a box or crossing an item off a, to do list. But when it comes to making and keeping a. The real trick is being persistent because habits don't just form overnight. It takes time and re. In fact on average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic 66 days to be exact and how long it takes to form a new habit can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person and the circumstances.

So forming new habits does take commitment, but after enough repetition, you'll subconsciously perform these habits. On autopilot, but what about bad habits like biting our nails or that weekly drive through visit that, you know, you should not be taking. We all have habits that we desperately wanna break, but we just can't seem to shake them off.

The idea of getting rid of bad habits is kind of a myth. Unfortunately, we can't simply erase bad habits from our brain. But what we can do is replace bad habits. Here's a clip from my conversation with emotional intelligence expert, Justin Baro back from episode number 40. Justin gives us an amazing example of how he replaced a small, but toxic habit that was taking away precious time from his life and how that led him to a better relationship with his kids.

Well, it all goes back into the habits, right? Once you do something over and over again, you're basically, you're running a little path in your brain and it gets very, very easy to do that. Same thing over and over again. And even if you regret it, if you do certain actions that you regret, if you don't do anything to change that path, then you're just gonna do it over and over again.

so here's an experience I write about in the book to illustrate this it's my own experience. Actually, as I mentioned, I have small children, so mm-hmm  I might take my children to the park and you know, I'm very, I'm always checking my email, right? So I, I open my phone, I get a message or I get an email and they are trying to play with dad.

I'm trying to respond to this email or this message. I get frustrated. Next thing you know, I'm like yelling, you know, just leave me alone for a second. I gotta respond to this. They end up in tears. Yes. You know, and like, it's just this horrible scene. Who's at fault there. Okay. Well, you could say I'm at fault, but if we break it down even further, you know, the children are just trying to get my attention, which I've kind of promised them cuz I'm taking them the park.

I'm trying to do something for work at the moment, which isn't bad within itself. But the real problem, the underlying problem. Um, I'm trying to multitask and I happen to be the worst multitasker on earth. I've discovered this about myself, but I would hate it when that happened and I'd apologize to my kids.

And then what would happen? I'd do the exact same thing the next day or the next week. So I eventually had to build self-awareness. I had to say, look, I'm doing this over and over again. I have to recognize that and I have to do something to stop it. So you can't just. Get rid of a bad habit, you have to replace a bad habit.

So I had to tell myself, okay, I have to completely silence my phone, turn off notifications and everything. If I'm taking my kids to the. Because if I try to do both things, it's gonna end up bad. Mm-hmm . And if I know that there's a message coming, you know, there's always exceptions. There may be something that you have to handle in a timely way, and you have to take your kids at that moment or whatever the situation is for your audience.

Mm-hmm . But if you run into one of those situations, now you have to make the adjustments. So I have to tell my kids, look, you have my full attention. However, . I have a message coming through in half an hour. So I'm gonna have to check my phone. So I just wanna brace you for that. I have to go away for five minutes and, you know, make sure my wife's got them or whatever, make sure they're taken care.

so I can go back, check my phone and answer whatever message I need. Mm-hmm  so here's where I'm replacing that bad habit, but it all came down to realizing how the emotion of, you know, dealing with multitasking was actually the root cause of the problem. And that's helped me. I discovered this years ago and it helped me in so many other ways of life.

It wasn't just dealing with my kids. It was realizing. I couldn't get through a single task because I had notifications going off on my phone, you know, mm-hmm  or on my computer. And I needed to silence these. If I'm working head down on a specific task, like when I was writing my book, for example, or anything like that, if I'm trying to have a conversation with my wife, And my phone goes off and it's immediately distracting me.

And that ends badly. She's like, are you listening to me? You know? Yeah. So I had to realize the same thing and, and sometimes it was, Hey honey, give me just two minutes so I can finish this up. And then you have my full undivided attention and that simple action completely changes the tone and the nature of our conversation.

I just wanna hit on that takeaway. One more time. You can't just get rid of a bad habit. You have to replace it instead of just checking his phone all the time. Justin kept his phone on silent, but when a message did pop up that he urgently needed to respond to, which was a cue. He built a new habit of consulting his family for a long time.

I thought that I could just cancel out my bad habits by loading up on new ones. For example, if I worked out five times a. It could cancel out all the poor decisions I made when it comes to my diet, or if I was hyperfocused at work and got tons of stuff every day, it would cancel out all my poor sleep decisions, but that's not how it works and bad habits can come back to bite you if they're ignored for too long.

So when you're trying to break in unhealthy or. Unwanted pattern. We need to adjust our mindset. We do this by redirecting the paths that have been formed in our brains to create a different action that replaces the bad habit. So for example, if I feel snack ish, instead of reaching for chips, I'll return an apple now.

And my cue is that I feel hungry. My routine is reaching for something healthier instead of junk food. And my reward is that I feel full from that apple and not crappy from binging on junk food. I have. Energy repeating this routine time and time again, retrains my brain from automatically craving a bag of chips.

When I'm feeling snack ish to craving something healthier and lighter, when I'm actually hungry, it may seem simple. Just stick to the formula and you'll easily replace bad habits with good ones. But then why do most people backtrack from forming healthy habits and staying the same rut for years? This is where effort comes in.

Effort is a lifeblood of forming a new habit. You need the why behind your actions. What's gonna keep you on this new path. Day after day in episode, number 1 46, I spoke with motivation expert Jeff Hayden, about how to start with small steps to help us reach our bigger goals. Here's Jeff, to tell you more.

Probably the biggest gap or the, the biggest hurdle that people have to cross. When you wanna start something new is you are starting at a place of no experience, no expertise. You're kind of at the zero spot in most cases. And so if you look ahead to where you want to go, that bridge, that you have to cross as incredibly daunting, because it's like, okay, I'm, I'm just this, how am I going to get all the way over there?

And so if you're constantly focused on that, Place than even little successes that you make early on, which you tend to do because you're new. So you learn quickly and you gain some skill fairly fast. They're meaningless to you because compared to what you think you want to be someday. Well, it's nothing.

And so the biggest thing for me is. Cuz I, I struggled with the first few things I wrote, but then I, I thought, and I would think to myself, how am I ever going to be able to do this? Because it takes me way too long. I'm creating decent things, but gosh, it takes forever. And there's no way for me to make this work.

And then I thought, well, Okay. But I, I can't sit down and, and think, okay, I'm gonna be Malcolm Gladwell tomorrow or something like that. But what I can do is just work really hard on whatever is in front of me. So I switched over and just said, my goal, every time I do something is all right, I have this to do.

I need to do it as well as I can. I need to finish it. I need to get good feedback from it, which means I, I did a good job cuz my, whether I thought I did a good job, didn't really matter. It's what the client thought. And that's all I can do right now.  but that's enough. And so if I stack enough of those experiences up, then the experience kind of comes.

And so by keeping a short time horizon, in terms of my like inner feedback loop, then if I worked on a project one night and it was a short one and I got it done. That felt really good because I set out to do what I wanted to do. I completed a task, it went well. That was enough to get me to the next one.

And so I just fell into this place of all I need is enough motivation to get to the next one. And if I get to the next one and I get to the next one, then suddenly you can look back and go, wow, I'm starting to come a long. Because I'm, you know, you pop your head up every once in a while and sort of look at where you are and go, wow.

That is really cool. And then you need to put your head right back down again and just focused on next and next and next. And so, and then the other part of it is that. I'm not particularly smart. I have a college degree, but I'm not particularly educated. I don't have anything. There's nothing I'm decidedly average.

Let's just, let's just say that  so I don't have anything. That's true, but okay. Well, I don't have anything special going for me, except for the fact that I realize that if I put in enough effort, there are a lot of things I can do. And so I'm very much a effort kind of a person. And so. That actually works really well because I don't think you get motivation from like this I'm sitting around one day and suddenly I have the lightning bolt that says, I want to be a, you know, a famous writer or some, whatever it is you want to be.

I don't. That doesn't work. I don't think that kind of motivation. I don't know anybody that has that all you really need is to say I'm interested in writing. Let me get started in some fashion and through effort, if you work hard at it, you improve. Cuz we always get better at things we work hard at. It is a natural thing.

It's it's just like taxes. It's a law of the universe. And whenever you get a little better, that feels good. And so effort equals a little bit of achievement, which feels good, which creates motivation for you to take a little more effort, which means you'll improve a little more, which feels good. And so there's this really cool virtuous cycle of effort, achievement, fulfillment, happiness, motivation that you can spend forever and ever, and ever.

If you focus on doing it that way, if all you care about is this big end result. It's demoralizing and defeating and you have to rely on willpower alone. And none of us have enough willpower to do that. But if you just get that cycle started, there it is. So to me, motivation doesn't come. First effort comes first.

We'll be right back after a quick break from our sponsors.

Jeff tells us how breaking down your main goal into smaller, actionable steps helps you stay motivated and keeps those good habits you're creating. You'll create a feedback loop or motivation loop that will keep you going until you found the groove to continue your new routine day after day. Hopefully celebrating your small wins helps keep you on track, but in case that doesn't work for you, let's take a moment to talk about commitment device.

I had bestselling author, mark Baden on, on episode number 1 54, and he dropped so much wisdom about how to make habits last and the mental hurdles we face when trying to make changes in our lives. And this last clip mark tells us about his idea of commitment, devices, commitment devices, are tools, physical or mental that we use to help keep the promises we're making to ourselves.

I think, um, the most obvious commitment device is something called an alarm clock. , you know, it's this idea that when you get up every day is a pretty significant factor. Cuz if you're getting up. Just in time to kind of eat breakfast, get a shower, get out the door and get to work. I don't think that's a recipe for like accomplishing your dreams.

I don't think you're gonna get in shape that way. I don't think you're gonna get outta debt that way. I don't think you're gonna grow spiritually relationally that way. And. You really have to leverage that alarm clock, a commitment device is simply it's giving yourself a deadline. It's putting things in place that force you to actually do what it is that you're saying that you're gonna do.

What's fun is I actually leverage occasionally in one of my messages, you know, and I, I have the privilege of speaking to a few thousand people every weekend. And one of the things I do, and this is a little trick of the trade is all go public with. Because I know that then I'll hold myself accountable.

So I announced in a message. Hey, I'm gonna run a marathon when I couldn't even run three miles yet. So there there's a commitment device is basically something that forces your hand. It's making that appointment. It's filling out the application, it's doing something that initiates, uh, that process and forces you to commit to it.

Commitment devices are absolutely amazing tools when it comes to starting something new and starting a new habit. And let me tell you, they work. When I first had the idea to start a podcast, one of the first things that I did was announce it to all of my coworkers. I was working full time and I barely had any extra time in my schedule to do anything outside of work.

But deep down, I knew that starting a podcast was something. Absolutely had to do so I told all of my coworkers, I was doing this, I announced it at a meeting. And then I went on LinkedIn and I also posted it on there. And I told all of my followers, which wasn't a lot at the time, but it was still meaningful that I was gonna start a podcast by the end of the year.

And because I posted that goal publicly, I felt like I had officially forced myself to commit. I needed to stick to my word because people were following up with me about it and I needed to pursue my dream. I couldn't hide behind my own excuses anymore. And guess what? By the end of the year, young and profiting podcast was born and I have not looked back.

So if you're already feeling like you're holding yourself back or not making progress, I challenge you to leverage those commitment devices and go public. See what happens when you make yourself accountable for taking the next step in your journey, whether it's starting a side hustle, whether. Getting into shape, stopping that junk food habit or anything in between.

If we follow the advice from the experts in this episode, we can all get closer to achieving our goals and locking in those good habits. Remember that it takes commitment, motivation, and flexibility to build new habits. So identify those cues, routines, and rewards to help you create and retain better habits and replace those bad habits with healthier ones.

And it's okay to start small, just keep moving forward and challenging yourself to stay consistent. Remember habit. Aren't just actions. They are what you do. Thanks for listening to this week's apps next on how to create habits. And I hope that you learned some actionable advice that you can use to form better habit routines and leave those bad habits behind.

What did you think about this episode? Tell me your main takeaway by dropping us a five star review on apple podcast, cast box Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform. You guys can also find me on Instagram at yap, with Haah or LinkedIn. If you search for my name, it's Haah Taha. And by the way, I have a text community that you guys can all join.

If you have a question for me, Any of our yap guests, you can just text yap yap to 2 8, 0 46. We take those questions for our new series, ask HOA anything it's really fun. We've been dropping them every Friday, lately. And so check those episodes out again. You can join the text community by texting yap to 2 8, 0 46 as always.

Thanks for listening to young and profiting podcasts. And thanks so much to my amazing team. This is your host Hala, Taha signing off.