If you have followed my on social media or have been listening to my podcasts, you’ll know that I have been an emergency nurse and an intensive care nurse for some time. In those environments, we had, what we would commonly refer to as, the “Bat phone”. Every time that phone rang, everyone knew that something was about to happen.
I was out one time with my wife, and we were in the shops. I heard a phone ring at one shop, and I immediately felt my body getting pumped up with adrenaline. Because the ringing of the phone was similar to the ring of the “Bat phone,” my body went into a state of excitement and alertness as how it would when I was on duty.
Pavlov’s Classical Conditioning
My response to the ring reminded me of Pavlov’s dogs. As soon as the dogs heard the bell (the stimulus), they began to salivate even though food was not present. Stepping back and looking at my response from an outside perspective, it was interesting. The habit was so engrained into me that a mere ring from a shop could cause a similar response within me.
This got me thinking, what other habits have I developed in a while that are not serving me now? I am at a different stage in my life as with most of you. While I was reflecting on this, I remembered a book entitled, “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg.
Three Elements of the Habit Loop
The book talks about three elements that consists a habit: the cue, the routine, and the reward. The best example would be how I responded to the ring in the shop.
The cue, of course, was the ring. It wasn’t the phone, but it was the particular type of ring. Next, the routine, which for me was when my body started to go into high alert. The adrenaline rushed all over my body as a response to the cue because that how I would usually respond when the “Bat phone” rang in my department. Because I was conditioned for years, I was ready to respond to whatever was about to happen even though we were just in a shopping center.
Lastly, the reward for me was being able to respond and work in that environment. In essence, I got to help someone, which was, personally, a rewarding experience. The reward was something that supported my behavior
How the Loop Helps Create Your Dream
Going back, I started to look at different aspects of my life. What am I doing that I am not consciously aware of that I get rewards from? I documented my actions throughout the day, trying my best to spot cues that occur at different times.
Keeping that record allowed me to identify different cues that weren’t serving me. Next, I identified the routines that the cues were stimulating. For example, I would wake up in the morning, which was a cue, then I wouldn’t talk to anyone, the routine, until I had my morning coffee. The taste of the coffee was my reward.
Because I was able to keep track of my day, I went into a state of knowing how to change my habits. The cues may always be the same, but how are you responding to the cues that are presented to you? What’s the reward or outcome of your habit? Remember that you can change any of the three elements from the habit loop to produce an outcome that can lead you closer to your dream.
Let’s say you always watch a TV show as soon as you arrive from work. Your cue is the time of the day when you get home. Change your routine. Instead of watching the usual shows, try watching something educational or something that you can learn from. The reward, of course, is self-improvement or even relaxation.
This entire experience has been very beneficial for me. I encourage you go through the same process. Write down your routine, and then spot habits that are not giving you the reward you need to be closer to your dream.