Have you ever wondered why your brain does not do a better job protecting you from developing bad habits? If not working out can do so much physical harm and thing like biting your nails can do so much social harm, why does our brain stick with these habits? Your brain sticks with these habits because it does not differentiate between good and bad habits. The bad news is that bad habits are already easier to build. The good news is that if you can build good habits they will become automated behaviors in your life.

The good news is that if you can build good habits they will become automated behaviors in your life.

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Why Are Bad Habits Easier to Build 

To understand this, you need to know how a habit loop works in the first place.

  1. Cue – Event that triggers a craving and desire for a reward
  2. Craving – When you begin to salivate for a reward
  3. Action – What most people consider to be the habit
  4. Reward – The thing you get that satisfies you

The craving is the problem area here. I will give you a great example. I ran track and field most of my life. Outside for two hours running your butt off means, you need to stay hydrated. I carried a water bottle with me everywhere and was never able to turn it into a habit.

The reason is that the only cue that ever made me want to drink water was being dehydrated. If I only drank water when I was dehydrated, it would be pointless. Without the craving, it's hard for an action to become a habit.

Bad habits come with quicker and stronger cravings. Comparing how much I wanted to drink water each day compared with how much I want to eat a gummy bear bag after a long day is no comparison. One craving makes me want to run through the walls, whereas drinking water is rarely desired.

Bad habits come with quicker and stronger cravings. Comparing how much I wanted to drink water each day compared with how much I want to eat a bag of gummy bears after a long day is no comparison. One craving makes me want to run through the walls whereas drinking water is rarely desired.

Good Habits Take Longer To Build Craving 

Most good habits provide no immediate reward. When you are thinking of a habit loop, that is a huge issue. If I sit on my butt and watch Netflix, I get rewarded with novelty and entertainment right away. If I get up and work out, what do I get? I get to be tired and feel pain? That is not a reward when you are first starting.

You have to let your logic override and win this battle. When you keep pushing through workouts because you know that they are good for you, your brain starts to change its mind. Workouts go from being hell to your brain, seeing them as a good thing. You will begin to crave the feeling you get from working out because you know it's making you better in the long run.

Building gloomy happens usually relies on focusing on the short run. Look at this list:

  • Eating junk food
  • Watching TV
  • Not working out
  • Sleeping

Habits That Only Provide Rewards In The Long Run

  • Working out
  • Drinking water
  • Eating healthy
  • Getting up on time
  • Meditation
  • Learning everyday

Meditation can provide immediate benefits, but you can only focus on all of the other things you could be doing when you are starting. Everything else on the list only pays off in the long run. Drinking water means frequent bathroom breaks. Eating healthy sucks and has no variety in your mouth. Getting up on time means removing the warm sheets. Learning every day means getting your brain to think. All of those things suck today.

If you do them every day for 10 years, we are talking about a whole new ball game. All of a sudden, that learning becomes knowing two new languages. The working out means no health issues, and you feel like you 10 years younger. The water has your skin feeling good and your organs working properly. All of the times, getting up time builds discipline and prevented time to complete your habit.

You have to let your logic override and win this battle. When you keep pushing through workouts because you know that they are good for you, your brain starts to change its mind. Workouts go from being hell to your brain seeing them as a good thing. You will begin to crave the feeling you get from working out because you know in the long run it's making you better.

The Question is What Do You Want in 10 Years? 

When I was in college, I often missed out on epic parties. I missed out on so much fun in my life because of the track. It was always worth it to me because of what I wanted in the future. I focused on that question.

I will never forget lying on my bed in the Olympic village. I looked over at my brother, who also made the team and was my roommate, and it was all like a dream. All of the parties I missed, all of the times that people called me lame, it all was worth it.

When you are struggling with your habits, just remember that all bad habits can be broken. You will never change the cue, craving, or the reward, but what you can change is your action. The second important thing to note is that you have to focus on what you want most in life. That is what discipline is.

When you are struggling with your habits just remember that all bad habits can be broken. You will never change the cue, craving, or the reward but what you can change is the action you take. The second important thing to note is that you have to focus on what you want most in life. That is what discipline is.

How to Adjust The Habit Loop With Bad Habits

As I said above, you can’t change the cue or reward, but you can change your action. Here is a simple example for me.

Cue – Getting home from a long day of work

Craving – Gummy Bears

Action – Go to the grocery store by my house to eat a whole bag

Reward- Sugar high

The New Routine looks like this:

Cue – Getting home from a long day of work

Craving – Apple

Action – Go to the grocery store by my house to eat a whole bag

Reward- Healthier sugar high

I need to have fruit in my house in abundance because if I don’t, my go-to every time is to buy a bag of sugar for no reason. You can do this same thing with any of your habits. First, you need to be aware of them, and then you need to think through a new action that can still provide you with the reward you seek.

I need to have fruit in my house in abundance because if I don’t my go-to every time is to go and buy a bag of sugar for no reason. You can do this same thing with any of your habits. You need to first be aware of them and then you need to think through a new action that can still provide you with the reward that you seek.

How Do You Trick Your Brain and Win The Battle For Good Habits?

Habit Stacking is the answer, and it’s the reason that I believe in it so much. When you want to build habits like reading or drinking water that can come with no short term rewards, habit stacking is the way to go.

To Habit Stack, you have to focus on one cue, and that one cue will carry you through the day. The way we teach this system makes it simple for you to remember and implement. Once you get your first habit down, then, you roll with it.

  1. Stack – Habit Stacking is the system you will lean on
  2. Start – You will start by your habit stack with waking up in the morning. It will be your keystone habit because it’s a powerful habit that can lead to a lot of other positive habits. You can count on waking up every day of your life until it's over.
  3. Schedule – The next step is to block the first part of your day so you don’t do anything but your habits stack. If you have an hour then you spend the first hour doing that
  4. Show-up Nothing matters if you don’t show up for your habits. If you get up and your stack says workout and you don’t that is on you.

Your Habit Stack could look like this for the first hour

Wake Up

Read

Run

Drink a bottle of water

Meditate

Ian Warner

About the author

I went from a broken leg to a 2012 Olympian. I have spent the last 15 years building positive habits as a track athlete and entrepreneur. I founded Habit Stacker and dedicated my life to helping people to develop winning habits. I have helped over 5,000 people...

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