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    How to Eliminate a Bad Habit (and Create a Good One)

    Who I am
    Robert Maurer
    @robertmaurer
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    wikipedia.org

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    A habit is a choice that we made a long time ago and that has taken root in our mind. With the right tools, we can learn to make better choices.

    “Quitting smoking is the simplest thing in the world. I've done it thousands of times ".

    Mark Twain.

    For several years now, I have chosen to carry on with GetPersonalGrowth a philosophy of personal growth that has little or nothing to do with live courses made of lights and sequins, exalted para-gurus and banal concepts repeated ad nauseam. I have chosen a different way of talking about personal growth.



    In fact, I am convinced that real changes do not happen by crossing a carpet of burning coals, accompanied by some motivating jingle. I am convinced that true change must be earned, but above all it must be built, day after day, in the silence of our mornings, in the path of our choices, in the depths of our minds and hearts. I am convinced that the road to improvement is paved with good habits.

    Habits are in fact the starting point, the foundations and the elementary bricks on which to build our personal revolution.

    Aho! 'mace how poetic you are this morning Andre! What are you magnate this weekend? Shake Spears Pasta and Sonnets ?! Like who is Shake Spears ?! Britney Spears' great grandfather! 'Gnorante!

    Let's get serious again. Just imagine for a moment what your days would be like if you could ... quit smoking, start eating healthily, stop procrastinating. Not only. Imagine what those same days would be like if you could ... get up early in the morning, train constantly, work productively. How different would your life be? How much satisfaction would you feel towards yourself? What goals could you achieve?


    Not bad right? Well, in today's article I want to share with you the most effective strategies for eliminate a bad habit (and maybe replace it with a good one). You are with me?


    The magic formula to change a habit ...

    …does not exist. Yes, you read that right: there is no magic formula that will allow you to change your damn habits overnight. No sir! Sorry, nothing to do! Each individual is unique, as is the set of habits that characterize their behavior.

    The fact that there is no single magic formula does not mean that there cannot be one model general that helps us understand how a habit works and what are the levers on which to act to create, change or eliminate it. This model exists and is known as the signal - routine - gratification (SRG) model.

    The signal - routine - gratification model

    In the late 3s, MIT researchers discovered a neurological mechanism underlying our habits. This mechanism consists of XNUMX essential elements: the signal routine and gratification.

    The signal it is a particular environmental condition that pushes our brain to activate the "automatic pilot" making us make a habit without realizing it. Classic examples of signals can be: an emotional condition (eg boredom), a time of day, a physical place, etc.

    La routine it is what we do automatically when the signal occurs. A routine can be physical, that is, we perform certain actions, mental, that is, we have specific thoughts, or emotional, that is, we feel certain emotions.


    The gratification it is what strengthens the habit in our brain; it is that biochemical reaction that tells our mind that a routine should be remembered because it made us feel some form of pleasure (or avoided because it made us feel pain).


    To make you understand better what I'm talking about, I'll tell you an example from my personal life. In the past, every morning, as soon as I wake up (signal), I would turn on my iPhone to check my email (routine) and feel a subtle form of fulfillment when I received a new message (gratification). But I'm sure this is a bad example: you have certainly never done something so stupid ... have you? ;-)

    It was during this period that I discovered the SRG model among the pages of the bestseller "The Dictatorship of Habits”By New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg. If you're having trouble with your habits, Duhigg's book is a must-have. In addition to offering very interesting insights, it offers an effective route in 4 steps to eliminate, modify or improve any habit. What do you say, can we take a look?

    1. Identify the routine

    The key first step in making any change is the awareness. Become aware of the bad habits it is the gateway to our personal growth path. Start by asking yourself which habits you intend to change, which habits are limiting your potential, which habits are literally ruining your life.

    If necessary, make a list of these habits. The best way to understand what behaviors you want to change is to start with the routines behind these habits. In my case, for example, turning on the iPhone and checking email was the routine to change.


    Identification at routine it's easy. It is more difficult to understand what the signal that triggers our routine, and it is even more difficult to identify the gratification we are looking for. For this reason it is necessary to experiment a little ...

    2. Experiment with different forms of gratification

    The goal of this second phase is to identify the needs that we are satisfying with our routines. To do this we have to make some… “variations on the theme“.


    Imagine yourself checking your email first thing in the morning (but I'm sure you don't!). Resist this urgent need and try to make some small changes: turn on your smartphone, and instead of checking your e-mail, read an article from theGetPersonalGrowth archive; or meditate for 20 minutes, or even better go out for a run!

    In this moment, the action you perform does not matter much (of course, replacing a bad habit with another worse one would not be particularly smart), the important thing is to experiment with different gratifications, until you identify the one that satisfies yours. latent need, exactly like the original gratification.

    Understanding exactly what need we are satisfying is not easy, for this reason I advise you to keep track of your experiments: at the end of each new activity write 3 words (Sun, Heart, Love! No, I'm joking !!!), the first ones that jump into your mind. It could be 3 words that describe your mood or random thoughts. After writing them, ask yourself a simple question: do you still feel the need to check your email (or do your routine)?

    The first time you answer "no", you will have found your replacement gratification and the 3 words will help you understand the need you are fulfilling. For me, checking email meant starting the day with a "small win", such as a message from someone special, or a positive comment from a reader.

    Well, at this point we just have to find the signal that triggers our habit!

    3. Isolate the signal

    As for my old habit, "waking up in the morning" was the signal to check email. However, it is not always so easy to identify the signal; it often happens that the signal plays hide and seek. However, the research carried out by MIT scholars can help us. In fact, there are 5 fundamental categories of signals:

    • Il place where we are.
    • THENow of the day.
    • Our Emotional state.
    • Le people with whom we are.
    • Le actions that we have accomplished.

    If you want to identify your signal, in the next few days, every time you put into action the habit you want to change, try to answer these 5 simple questions:

    • Where are you?
    • What time is it?
    • How do you feel?
    • Who are you with?
    • What did you just do?

    By answering these questions for 1 week you will be able to identify the signal that triggers your routine. As mentioned, in my case it was the time of day (the alarm clock).

    4. Define an action plan

    Now that you know a lot more information about your habit, it's time to take it apart one bit at a time and rebuild it from the ground up; to do this though, you need a piano! For example, to get rid of my bad habit, I adopted this simple plan:

    Every morning, as soon as I wake up (signal), I wear running shoes and go for a run (routine), so as to start my day with a small win (gratification).

    My plan.

    Once you too have identified the 3 essential elements of your habit, you will have all the tools to modify, eliminate or improve it. To help you, I have included below a nice infographic from "The Dictatorship of Habits”(Click on the image to enlarge).

    I wish you a wonderful week, I'm sure it will be full of interesting news.

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