The habit replacement loop is a tool for understanding and replacing bad habits. It’s a good process to use because replacing or modifying bad habits is easier than stopping them. To replace or change your bad habits, it’s important to be clear of your purpose, committed, knowledgeable, targeted in your efforts, supported and determined to overcome setbacks.

Summary by The World of Work Project

Replacing Bad Habits

Many people would like to break their bad habits, modify them so they are less damaging or replace them with beneficial habits. And there are many people producing processes and models to help do exactly that. We cover two of them in this post, including the habit replacement loop.

5 Steps to Replacing Bad Habits

Step 1: Decide what to change

The first step to making changes is to decide what you want to change, and to convince yourself that you can change.

Knowledge is powerful when it comes to change.

Step 2: Understand the habit

Once you’ve decided what you want to change, you need to explore the habit. You should understand what is causing it, when it occurs, what triggers it and so on.

Step 3: Set goals

Once you understand the habit you wish to change, the next step is to do some goal-setting. You should set reasonable targets around how you’d like to change, including timelines.

Step 4: Change and measure progress

Having set goals, it’s time to start to change. While implementing your change you should measure your progress as the act of measurement itself supports behavior change. It’s important not to be too upset by some slips and lapses. Focus on the big picture and celebrate your successes.

Step 5: Get support

Seek support and use the power of social relationships to help you change. Commit to your goals, request assistance and generally let those around you help you change your habits.

A fist bmp demonstrating the power of support as per the The Habit Replacement Loop
Some people will support you and help you be your best.

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7 Steps in Habit Replacement Loop Training

Step 1: Understand How Habits Work

The first stage of this process is to gain an understanding of how the habit loop works, and how replacement works within the loop. Once you’re aware of this concept and start to recognize your own cues, routines and rewards, you’re well on the way to changing your habits.

The Habit Replacement Loop says that the more we understand our habits, the easier it will be to change them
The more you understand, the more able you will be to change.

Step 2: Substitute Negative Routines

The next stage involves replacing the routine part of an existing habit that you wish to change. Having identified what you wish to change, you should substitute a negative routine for a more positive one. A simple example could be replacing caffeinated coffee with a decaffeinated coffee every time you have a work break.

Remember, these routines could be physical activities, but they could also be thought patterns or other forms of behaviors as well.

Step 3: Substitute Negative Cues and Triggers

Having identified and replaced some of your negative routines and responses with more positive ones, the next stage is to focus on your cues or triggers. Again, you should look to remove the cues that trigger negative behaviors and replace them with cues that trigger positive behavior.

Step 4: Get Support

Doing these steps on your own isn’t always easy, so the next step of this process recommends joining forces with someone else who’s looking to make similar changes.

The Habit Replacement Loop suggests we may want to change our social circles
There are some people you’ll want to keep away from when you want to change.

Step 5: Surround Yourself with Helpful People

As well as buddying up to get support on your goals, it’s important to surround yourself with people who will help you achieve your goals.

This might mean stepping away from unhelpful people and replacing them with people who are more helpful in your life. For example, if you want to exercise more, you might want to spend more time with people who already exercise a lot.

Step 6: Visualize Your Success

It’s important to see yourself being successful. You need to believe that you can achieve your goal and to visualize yourself doing so. Others can help you, but the believe and the confidence to change needs to come from within as well.

Step 7: Keep Trying to Change

There are often many set backs on the path to change. It’s important to stick to your objectives and keep trying no matter what happens. You might miss a few instances of your goal, or lapse back into bad habits, but it’s important to celebrate the successes and keep trying to change. Persistence is the key to ultimate success.

Learning More

Habits are powerful things. There’s some dispute about how long it takes to form habits. However, it’s agreed that we can get so used to things that we basically automate them. When this happens it is known as automaticity. Some product designers use their knowledge of habit loops to create fairly addictive products to increase engagement with them. An example of this is the Hook model of behavior design.

Habits also play a key role in personal behavior and behavior change. There are several different models that look at this type of change including the Kubler-Ross change curve and Transtheoretical Model.

You might also find this podcast on the Kubler-Ross change curve of interest. It covers some aspects of individual psychological change. It also reflects on the roles of leaders in leading through change.

The World of Work Project View

As the habit replacement loop says, replacing or modifying habits is much easier than simply stopping them, though it’s not always easy. The steps in these models will help you change as an individuals, but you’ll need to stick at your efforts and keep trying regardless of the hurdles you may face.

From a work and leadership perspective, it’s perhaps helpful to understand that individuals in your team will have developed specific work habits over a long period of time and that changing them might not be an easy process. It will always be easier to help the individuals in your teams modify their habits than to simply stop them, and the processes detailed in this post may help you help them do so.

Overall, we’re fairly supportive of the steps detailed in this post. They just incorporate a handful of specific intervention functions associated with behavioral change, but they’re still helpful.

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This post is based on some general reading, but also references some articles that look at steps people can take to change their behaviors. To learn more please look at: Psychology Today.

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