Understanding the Habit Feedback Loop

Habit Feedback Loop

Part two of this series will introduce what’s called the Habit Feedback Loop, a secret weapon for learning how to break bad habits and build awesome new ones.

The Habit Feedback Loop is simple; our habits, whether good or bad, are structured into 4 main stages. These are:

  • Cue
  • Craving
  • Response
  • Reward

Most of our habits are so deeply engrained we don’t even know we have them. Brushing our teeth, biting our nails, or checking our email 47 times a day. All these habits begin with a cue that triggers a craving, motivating a response, and providing a reward.

Let’s take a theoretical approach and use eating fast food as an example.

It’s 5:30 pm and you’re on the drive home from a draining end of day meeting. You’re stuck in traffic and you catch the big golden arches out of the corner of your eye – the cue. Now you’re hungry (the craving) and you know you have another 30 minutes to get home before you can even start to cook food. Just this once, you pull off the highway and into the drive through to order – the response. You stuff your face, your hunger is satisfied with a quarter pound of beef and salty fries, and your dopamine has gone through the roof – the reward. Now “just this once” may become a slippery slope.

  • Cue
    • Golden Arches
  • Craving
    • Tasty Fast Food
  • Response
    • Order fast food
  • Reward
    • No longer hungry

This feedback loop works the same for every habit we have and the great thing about this is that we can define what causes us to follow through with our bad habits while also setting ourselves up for success with good habits.

For today we’ll focus on one idea – Define the cue for your habits and make them obvious or invisible. Good Cues should be made obvious and bad cues should be made invisible.

  • Good Cue – Make it obvious.
    • Want to take your vitamins more? Put them right next to your toothbrush so you can’t miss them.
    • Want to continue moving towards your goals relentlessly? Put NVR REST gear all over your home!
  • Bad Cue – Make it invisible.
    • Want to stop eating cookies ever night? Throw away the cookies!

Every time you perform a habit you want to get rid of define what the cue was and take note. For new habits, come up with an obvious cue to remind you to act. In the example above, the golden arches cue was incredibly obvious and could be avoided by taking a different route home. This makes that cue invisible. When figuring out how to implement new habits simply make the cue blatantly obvious like putting your vitamins in a high traffic area of yours like next to your toothbrush.

If you can’t wait for the rest of this series to be written or if you just want to dive deeper, checkout Atomic Habits or Smarter, Fast, Better on our site. Leave some of your cues, good and bad, in the comments below!


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