What Are The 4 Stages of Habit Formation?

It is all about making progress in life.

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Some of us want to enhance our interpersonal connections, some want to improve our professional lives, and others want to improve our spiritual lives. However, no matter where you look or whom you look to, you will always find the same thing: a constant search for improvement and advancement.

Because every time we set out on a journey to develop new habits and improve ourselves, we are likely to remain trapped in our paths. Our internal dialogue goes something like this: “I’ll go to the gym every morning.” But three days later, we’re hitting the snooze button and convincing ourselves that it’s OK because we “deserve” a break. From then, it’s a long and arduous journey back to the start.

It Doesn’t Have To Be Though

However, this does not have to be the case.

It is possible to form habits that last for an extended period or even a lifetime. To develop such practices, you go through 4 stages of habit formation. The 4 stages of habit formation are:

  1. Cue
  2. Craving
  3. Response
  4. Reward

The first stage is the cue that signals your brain to act or start a behaviour. When a piece of information predicts an outcome, it causes a desire or craving for that outcome to develop.

This is the point at which all real change starts. This is the point at which you take one of your dreams, one of your ideas of yourself, and decide upon taking a simple, concrete step towards making that dream a reality for yourself.

Consider the following scenario: you have an image of yourself as a well-organised, timely, and clean person. You’re constantly on top of deadlines, you keep your workspace tidy, and you know exactly where everything is at all times. That sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, for the majority of individuals, becoming this person will need a significant amount of effort. To put your best foot forward, start with a modest, attainable objective. This will serve as the initial building brick in a chain of healthy, self-reinforcing behaviours.

Perhaps you’d want to commit to making your bed each morning for the next 60 days. Alternatively, you may tidy your area at the end of the day. These are simple goals that you may work towards achieving. It cannot be emphasised enough how critical it is to start with a well-defined plan in mind. In the absence of one, the subsequent three phases will lack direction, and you will find yourself sliding back into your old habits before you know it.

1. Craving

Unless we have a strong passion for change, we have no reason to act unless we have some degree of motivation or desire driving us to work for it. What you want is not the habit itself but the shift in the condition that it brings about.

It is at this point that you will begin to develop habits gradually. You will start with the smallest possible element of the objective you defined in the previous step and commit to bringing it to reality as quickly as possible.

But your habits are not very well-formed. For example, you are a student studying in a school. Now you get the idea to study at least 5 hours a day. This is the initiation point of your new habit. But you won’t go to the next step unless you crave it. The craving comes from inside. It is the real reason you want to form a habit and stick to it for the longest time possible. There could be many reasons for craving. It might be due to the reward you think you will get from your new habit, or you just want to satisfy your inner feelings.

2. Response

This is the real habit that you engage in, which may take the shape of a thought or an action, depending on the situation. How committed you are and how much resistance is connected with your conduct determine whether or not you will get a response.

We refrain from engaging in an activity that leaves us dissatisfied or otherwise unappealing and difficult to carry out.

When they want to cultivate a reading habit, people make a big mistake by setting a challenging goal, such as reading 100 pages in a day. This is difficult during the early phases of habit formation. Motivation leads us to create pursuits such as reading 100 pages a day, but we should give ourselves small and realistic goals like 10 pages a day when starting. Set small, manageable goals in the beginning and build from there. 

This creates a habit that is similar to a job. Set small, achievable objectives, and as you gain momentum, you may progressively increase the difficulty of your activity but avoid making it very tough.

3. Reward

Every habit has a primary objective in the form of rewards. The cue is concerned with the act of noticing the reward. The craving is motivated by a desire for the reward. The response is inspired by the desire to receive the reward. When we seek out rewards, we do so for two reasons: (1) they fulfil our desire, and (2) they teach us which acts are important to remember in the future. As a result, a habit is formed.

These four stages of habit formation do not sometimes occur; but instead, it is an infinite feedback loop that is active and operating at all times while you are alive, even right now. The brain is constantly monitoring your surroundings, making predictions about what will happen next, experimenting with various reactions, and learning from the outcomes of these experiments. All of the steps are finished in a split second, and we repeat this four-stage habit formation process time and time without realising the information and details of the previous moment.

Conclusion

We may divide these four stages into two parts: 

1. The problem phase

2. The solution phase. 

The cue and the craving are included in the problem phase, and it is during this phase, you recognise that you need to act or behave in a specific way to improve your situation. The response and the reward are in the solution phase, and it is during this phase, you will behave or act to bring about the desired change.

Every action is motivated by the desire to find a solution to a problem. It is possible to have a problem when you see something you like and want to get your hands on. Sometimes the problem is that you are in discomfort, and you want to get rid of it as soon as possible. In any case, the goal of every habit is to help you overcome the problems you are now facing.

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