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Have you ever tried to make a positive change but can’t seem to make it stick? It all comes down to our habits.

Habits are practices done on a regular basis. They ultimately define who we are. According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, making small changes overtime can have an astounding impact on your life. We often dismiss small changes because it is difficult to see the effect immediately, but becoming one percent better each day results in significant change in a year.

Layers of Behavior Change

We have been taught to be goal oriented and focus on results, but there are actually three layers to behavior change: 1) Outcomes – Changing results, 2) Processes – Changing habits and systems, 3) Identity – Changing beliefs. The most effective way to change your habits is to change who you wish to become. You can do this be deciding the type of person that you want to be and then proving it to yourself with small wins.

Process of Building a Habit

The process of building a habit can be divided into four steps:

1) Cue – triggers a behavior (notice the reward)

2) Craving – the motivational force (want the reward)

3) Response – the actual habit (obtain the reward)

4) Reward – the end goal (serve two purposes: satisfy and teach us)

All four steps are vital for a habit to form. Without the cue, craving, or response, a behavior will not occur. Without all four steps, a behavior will not be repeated.

Four Laws of Behavior Change

1) Make it obvious – Many people think they lack motivation, but what they really lack is clarity. It is not always clear when and where to do a habit. Time and location are the most common cues that affect habits. Use these cues to pair a new habit with a specific time and location. Another strategy is Habit Stacking when you pair a new habit with a current habit.

2) Make it attractive – The more attractive something is, the more likely it will become a habit. Habits are a dependent on dopamine levels. Dopamine is released not only when you experience pleasure, but also when you anticipate it. Anticipating a reward – not actually getting it – makes us to take action. A strategy for making habits attractive is Temptation Bundling by pairing something you want to do with a habit you want to develop.

3) Make it easy – We tend to the things that require the least amount of work. A strategy to make a habit easy is to use the Two-Minute Rule. When starting a new habit, start small by only doing it for two minutes.

4) Make it satisfying – We are more likely to repeat a behavior when the experience is satisfying. To get a habit to stick, you need to feel immediately successful – even if it is in a small way.

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