Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

Good Habits, Bad Habits and the Breaking of Both

Deadly Habit by Sanja Gjenero

Deadly Habit by Sanja Gjenero

I’m continually interested by habits. Both good and bad.

In previous posts recently, I‘ve been thinking about the power of chaining, nudging and game playing. At the heart of these three areas is a fairly simple, lighter-touch approach to the creation of good habits and the removal of bad. This light touch approach I have frequently contrasted with more of a top-down, intellectually controlled approach.

Two thoughts have been rattling around in relation to habits, and I’m not sure how they fit in (if they do at all)

First, is: ‘Why bad habits are easier than good habits and what turns good habits bad?’ Now on this, I’m not being as simplistic as it may sound. I know why doing too much of anything is easy (be it drink or drugs, crisps or chocolate) for some or most people. It most cases it feels good to do it than not do it. The brain connects the good feeling with the act = habit.
I’m interested in the subtlety: the good habits that feel good when you do them (exercise/ eating some nice-tasting healthy stuff/ calling your parents) but then get hijacked when the good feelings have faded. Contrast this to the bad habits taken to a point of boredom. They are exciting when anticipated in advance, but start to fail to give a prolonged good feeling and yet we still do them. And then want to do them the next day……

The second (and more random, but related to chaining) is: ‘Is it possible for the unconscious/ other-than-conscious model the next day based on the habits/ behaviours of the day it has just experienced?’

Now I know my concepts and terminology on this one drive the randomness of the question, and it is in contradiction to the first points I discussed. The reason for the questioning is whether this is what enables the success of chaining. Not just the game playing, or the gentle nudge given, but the learnings taken. The unconscious learning which occurs.

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