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Breaking Loops

Loops can engulf us.  They are a series of patterns that we execute over the course of the day without thinking. We see the same people, eat the same meals, say the same things, travel the same route to work, watch the same TV, listen to the same music. There is a lot of comfort in these habits, but they also lock us into our old selves. There is no changing oneself as long as our loops are in control.

But how do you stop? Which habits to you keep and which ones do you get rid of? And what are the first steps in accomplishing this?

The key is interrupting your normal patterns.

In this book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg recounts research undertaken by the National Institutes of Health to understand just how people change their habits.  The key to success rested on a person’s ability to change a keystone habit that would lead to changes in other routines.  This could be a problem with smoking or over-eating, for example.

A second brain can help.  Using your tablet, sketch the main habit you want to change.

1. Draw a picture of the habit

Many times, we have a vague notion of what the habit looks like.  Seeing the habit in all its glory is something we almost never do.  This is where your portable brain can come in handy.  Pull out your iPad or tablet, and actually draw a picture.  Or, take a photo of yourself with your phone’s camera.

2. Identify the cues

A cue is a trigger, that what seems to lead to the habit. In your picture, identify all of the cues that lead to your habit.

3.  Draw some new habits from the same cues

Instead of stopping the habit, substitute a new one.  Some of these new habits may not be practical, but hey, you’re just drawing ideas.  So, don’t worry too much about it.

4. Experiment with new routines

Now try some new routines.  Don’t expect a new habit to stick.  You’re just finding one that seems to fit, that might make a good substitute.

5. Set reminders on your phone

If the habit usually occurs at a certain time (for example, when Conan comes on the tube), then set the reminder for 10 minutes before.  If it is hard to predict the time, then simply remind yourself often throughout the day.

6. Tweak your routine

You may need to make some minor adjustments to your new routine.

7. Repeat the new routine

When you find a good fit, repeat it for at least a week.   Sometimes you need to go longer.  But in the end, you want to condition your new response.  The ability to use your mobile device to facilitate change is one of the advantages of having one.  The very fact that it is with you provides a useful way to remind yourself of the changes you are undertaking.  Keep your pictures handy, and in a spare moment, take a look at them to jog your memory.

Also see Mobo Brain: A Guide to Mobile Brainpower

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