What You Need to Know About Habits

Habits are pretty sneaky. They can control us if we let them. They put our emotions on auto-pilot, not to mention our reactions.

And, most importantly, they are very hard to quit.


Before you can make any significant progress dealing with your habits, you will need to know more about them.

What is a habit, anyway? Let’s start there.

Habits consist of three things: a cue, a routine, and a reward.

1. The Cue

This is the initial scenario or circumstance which sets off your behavior, or routine. It could be a smell, an emotion, the time of day, or the sight of your favorite fast food restaurant.

I prefer the term trigger over cue due to its powerful imagery. It makes me think of a bullet pointed at its target through the barrel of a gun, set in motion by a simple trigger.

2. The Routine

This is the meat of any habit. It’s the thing we do and hate ourselves for later. It’s the script which plays out once started by the cue.

It could be eating at Cinnabon every time you’re in the airport, going to the bar after work, viewing pornography, getting angry at your loved ones, smoking, or who knows what.

3. The Reward

This is what the habit was created to satisfy. This is the reason you have a habit in the first place — to meet a need or desire.

The reward provides the subtle (yet powerful) reinforcement of a habit. It fulfills a craving for social interaction, a feeling of importance, numbing pain, or anything else we desire. Rewards can be tricky to determine, and are not necessarily related to the habit.

Now What?

How does it help to be aware of the cue, routine, and reward which make up any habit?

Tune in next post for the answer.

Determine the cue, routine, and reward for a specific habit you have. Identifying these properly is very important.