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Consider Your Cues

Published 4/13/2020

For the sake of this episode we're calling habits the effort it takes to do something with intuition. In today's episode, we're talking about how to break out of old habits and learn new habits when asked to adapt to change.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
We talk a lot about motivations on this show. And in today's episode, I want to discuss something that comes before motivation. Something that comes before the reward cycle in your habits. My name is Jonathan Cutrell you're listening to Developer Tea and my goal on this show is to help driven developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in your careers. Your habits are probably turned upside down at the moment if you're listening to this podcast around the time that it comes out because what's normal has been flipped upside down. Most of our lives have changed pretty drastically. Unless you had already been working from home and if you're like most people who started working from home, this may all feel a little bit new. And so perhaps now more than ever, it makes sense to investigate, to inspect your own habits. So what is a habit made up of exactly? What is a habit? For the sake of this episode, we're going to call habits the things that we do with very little to no effort. By no effort, we don't mean no energy is expended, but rather that we're not having to overcome anything. We're kind of on autopilot. So it makes sense that habits are things that we kind of do automatically that's fairly intuitive to people who know what a habit is, something we find ourselves doing without really even knowing that we're doing it. But how do we develop good habits and perhaps more importantly to today's episode, how do we break out of our old habits and get into the new ones? This is the long standing question in a lot of behavioral science and behavior change discussions. And we certainly are not going to answer it thoroughly in today's episode. But I do want to peak your interest about a specific point in the behavioral chain. And that is the very beginning. This stage is unlike the other stages. Let's talk a minute about the other stages. Once you get into the behavior, once it becomes a habit, which happens quite frankly through a lot of repetition, once it becomes a habit, you're kind of on autopilot. Once again, this is the doing of the thing, whatever that thing is, without really thinking about it. Habits can be small or they can be quite large. They can last multiple hours sometimes or they can be even as small as sub-second. Habits. And as it turns out, the vast majority of our actions are subject to habitual behavior. And so this automatic process, it happens a lot throughout our day-to-day lives very often once again in ways that we don't even realize it's happening. But moving on, there's more to it. It's not just the behavior, but why is it that we choose to engage in these behaviors to begin with? There's some kind of reward mechanism. And we talked about this on the show a lot, and we're not going to stay here very long for today's episode, but the reward is incredibly important. The reward is the driving reason why you would stick with something, and it is the reinforcement that you need to continue building that habit or maintaining that habit. So it's important to think about these reward structures, but I want to focus on the very beginning. This is the moment called the cue. The cue is some kind of trigger, some associative trigger that you have put together with the ensuing habit. Cues can be as simple as rolling out of bed or they can be more complex, like certain words or phrases that you might hear. The key here is that cues are associative. In other words, something in your environment, whether it's something that you do or something that is done around you by others or maybe just something you observe in some way, something in your environment occurs, and your brain kind of goes into automatic associative mode. This cue is enough to remind you or push you towards acting out that habit. The first time you do it, it's not going to feel like a habit. In fact, this is one of the hardest things to get over. Habits are not automatic to begin with. They aren't habits until they become automatic, and so it may be very difficult to enact these new behaviors. And there's no specific science of when they become automatic. So don't try to use some rule of thumb if it doesn't feel automatic by some certain number of iterations, then I'm going to stop. Instead focus on the cue for today's episode, as well as the reward. But in today's episode, I specifically want you to think about the various cues that you are experiencing in your life, especially the ones that are new. Some very simple examples of this for working from home for many of you who are starting that for the first time, simple example of a cue is having some kind of alarm at around 5 o'clock or whatever your stopping time is for the day. Here's why this is important. In a office environment, your cues are social. People start packing up their bags, they notice the time, they start talking about what they're doing after work. But working from home, you have nowhere to go. There's no commute, there's nothing to pack up. And so it's easy to allow those lines to blur, and before you know it, you've worked into your evening. And this can happen even if there's no particular pressure to do so in your professional environment. So I want you to consider the types of cues that are leading to the types of behaviors that you don't want to have. What habits do you have today that you'd like to replace? Now think about which of those habits you can trace back to their cue and what you can replace that cue with. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. This week I'm very excited to have Dan Heath joining me on the show in the next two episodes of this show. If you don't want to miss out on that incredible interview with Dan Heath, please subscribe and whatever pie-gassing app you're currently using. The interview with Dan is incredibly insightful so I hope you will listen to that. Thank you so much for listening to this episode. Today's episode was produced by Sarah Jackson. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. And until next time. For your team.