A lot of the feedback I’ve gotten about the site has been about the name.
‘What even is a force of habit?’
I’ll be using this post to clear the air about what Forces of habit means. To define the title of the site we’ll need to know a little about habit formation and the path that you and I will be traveling on our journey towards intentional living.
Forces, Habits, What Does It All Mean?
In physics, a force is any interaction that, when unopposed, will change the motion of an object. When anything, whether it be internal or external, acts on anything else it creates a relationship that impacts all parties involved. For example, when a force like stress acts on our bodies, it impacts all parties involved, meaning not just our bodies, but how we think and interact with others.
As for habits, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the bestselling book “The Power of Habit”, Charles Duhigg defines a habit as an ingrained pattern of behavior. From brushing our teeth to drug addiction, we as humans are truly creatures of habit.
The study of habits spans across modern history.
In 1890, Psychologist William James in his seminal work Principles of Psychology says.
“When we look at living creatures from an outward point of view, one of the first things that strike us is that they are bundles of habits…. It thus appears that habit covers a very large part of life.”
Habits matters to one of the greatest psychologist of all time. But how much? Recent research at Duke has revealed that a substantial amount of our daily decisions weren’t deliberate choices; they were habits.
Habits matter. But aren’t we just slaves to our habits? Do we do things due to ‘Force of Habit’? Sure, but my goal is to think about the forces of habit differently.
Putting This Together
Keeping these two terms in mind, a force of habit can be thought of as any interaction that alters the status of an existing ingrained pattern of behavior. Ordinarily, the saying goes that things are done out of some involuntary or automatic pattern of habit. But what I’ve come to see is that people are interpreting this all wrong. People say ‘Well, it’s ingrained in me, or it’s in my genes, so there’s nothing I can do.’ This is just not the case.
My distinction is that forces do not have to be strictly innate or automatic. We can learn and unlearn almost anything, we can Force the habit. The involuntary feelings, behavior, or thoughts, we can identify are interchangeably malleable.
Here’s an illustration. In high school, I had the irresistible urge to shake my legs. Night and day, I would shake my legs out of agitation automatically. I was convinced that it was just part of who I was and I had no control over stopping it.
I couldn’t take it anymore. As a busy teenager, more energy meant I would be able to save energy for cramming. I came up with the idea to ask my friends to bring it to my attention anytime they noticed I was shaking; that was the beginning.
Each mention changed how I viewed the behavior. Gradually my leg shaking went from automatic, to constantly on my mind, and ended when I began to catch myself before I started shaking. I don’t shake my legs anymore.
The Habit Loop
How did something I thought would plague my life forever change so quickly?
I changed the habit loop.
Through the suggestions of my friends, I had been opened to the first stage of what is known as the habit loop. The habit loop describes the framework for how all habits are established and sustained. It has three key components: the cue, a routine, and a reward.
Cues are what prompt the habit. In its simplest form, a cue can be thought of as a signal to your brain to begin the desired behavior automatically.
The form the cue takes can vary broadly, but research has found that cues tend to fit into one of these five categories:
- Emotional State
- Other People
- Immediately preceding action
The behavior. The cue prompted something, and that is what the routine is compiled of. Thoughts, actions, and feelings are broadly what the routine will encompass.
Each routine ‘seeks’ a specific type of outcome; this is the reward. Rewards are what routines gravitate towards. What rewards all have in common is that they follow a routine systematically because they are set as the preferred next step by our brains. The brain desires positive reinforcement, this is why rewards tend to be pleasurable, or anxiety reducing.
This is only an explanation of what the habit loop is. We can use this information from each component to rewire out habit loops for whatever we realistically desire. For actionable solutions to controlling your habit loops check out Charles Duhigg’s post on habits.
Forcing Your Habits
We can no longer deny the importance and existence of habits as one of major operations managers of our lives. It’s my goal as a writer to teach you about the mechanism that put habits in motion (Forces) and strategize a formal plan of action to address the forces through the development of “keystone habits” as your main line of defense.
This is the beginning of a long-term relationship. Together we will continue to dissect ourselves, piece by piece uncovering what we are, so we can properly become what we want.
Welcome to Forces of Habit.
Are you ready to get started? Check out the Top 5 Habit I Do Every Day to see if you’re on the right track towards forcing your habits towards intentional living!