Building PowerHow To Actually Form Habits | Bulletproof Method (self.TheRedPill)

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Building habits that last

“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us” –John Dryden

To create habits that last you must first understand 3 fundamental concepts: The habit loop, the power of systems, and the psychological warfare involved in creating habits.

How habits work: The habit loop

In Charles Duhigg famous book ‘The Power of Habit’, a fundamental concept about the nature of habits is revealed. The concept is called ‘The habit loop’. The habit loop consists of three main elements:

The Cue: Something that influences us to initiate the habit, sometimes called a ‘trigger’. These cues can come in a number of forms; they generally create an emotional response that compels us to act on the impulse.

The routine: This is when you are performing the habit; generally you will be on autopilot as the habit at this stage is ingrained deeply into your brain. For instance, when you are brushing your teeth, you go through the same motions every night. Your brain does not need to use willpower to consciously think about how you are going to do it. You are sleepwalking.

The Reward: The reward is what fuels the habit, it’s the end game. The reward for brushing your teeth is that fresh feeling you get in your mouth afterwards. The reward for smoking could be the dopamine hit you get or the feeling of relaxation. If there are no rewards, there is no incentive for the brain to commence the habit loop. The more times you repeat a habit, the deeper the habit becomes ingrained inside your brain, and the harder it becomes to overcome it.

“The Chains of Habit Are Too Light To Be Felt Until They Are Too Heavy To Be Broken” – Warren Buffet

Habit Loop Diagram

Creating habits

Now that we know the basic framework of how habits are formed and reinforced, let us get into some practical strategies for creating new habits.

We first need to create an association in our brain between the habit and the reward. Your brain initially does not want to use more energy than necessary; at the early stages, the association between the habit and the reward have not been established.

It’s common knowledge that going to the gym is good for you, but not everyone has gone to the gym long enough to create a clear association between the routine (exercising) and the reward (body transformation & and dopamine rush after workouts). Logical understandings are not enough to overcome the emotional inertia of creating a new habit. You need a real reference point, you need to experience the reward first hand for it to become real.

Develop a strong cue

To begin with, you must consciously create your own cues to remind you to begin the habit. The easiest cue is an alarm on your phone. Set your alarm with a message telling you to begin the habit. Have the alarm cycle every day at the same time. The cue popping up at the same time creates less mental hurdles for you to overcome and makes it easier for your brain to associate that time with the habit. You could also use objects as cues. Perhaps you have a chair in your house and you want to begin the habit of meditation. Each time you walk past the chair, sit down on it for a couple of minutes and meditate. Once you have consciously associated the object with the routine a couple of times the process becomes automatic.

Create Systems

We create a system to prepare us for the inevitable contingencies that might occur. Systems are best made by taking precautionary measures by manipulating the variables within our control. Let’s say that you want to create the habit of waking up at 5 AM every morning.

Naturally, you would set your alarm next to your bed for 5 AM. However, you run the risk of hitting the snooze button (remember the early stages of habit creation are grueling and willpower is not enough). A simple system to combat this could be to simply have your alarm across your room and out of arms reach. Doing this forces you to get out of bed, helping you overcome the initial inertia of the morning, making it easier to ingrain the habit. Let’s say that you want to create the habit of eating healthy.

A system to help you with this could be having a simple food prep every Sunday. You could get all your healthy food ready for the week so that you don’t get tempted during the week. If you don’t create this system it will be far too easy to give in to temptations and eat all the delicious bullshit that can be found everywhere in the modern world.

When creating systems consider the following questions:

  • What actions can I take prior to help make life easier for myself?

  • What things should I avoid to make success more likely?

  • How can I make it so that I am forced to do the habit?

  • What pressure can I put on myself to perform the habit?

  • Is there a environment that would better facilitate this habit?

  • Is there a particular time of the day that would help create this habit?

Psychological Warfare

The last war is fought in the mind. You must pledge guerrilla warfare against the voice in your head. The voice that tells you to:

-“just skip it this one time, you have worked hard and deserve it”

-“Missing it one time is okay”

-”I can try again tomorrow”

-“I have been going hard! I can take a break now”

When you hear this voice in your head tell it to shut the fuck up. The slightest ounce of resistance can ruin all your good work. You must be relentless in the first couple days of forming a new habit, don’t give yourself any excuse to skip a day. Each time you want to skip a day envision someone with a gun to your head, it’s that serious. You need this type of mindset in the beginning if you want to overcome the inertia. It might seem extreme but it’s well worth it, especially when the habit you create rewards you for the rest of your life.

You are literally the sum of your habits and can change your trajectory by strategically building the right habits. See where you want to go and began the habit creation process. Focus on ONE habit at a time until it echoes. I don’t care if it takes you a whole year to make that thing a habit, it’s far better to develop one good habit than to try creating multiple ones that never stick. You will know that you have formed the habit when you can’t sleep without completing it, when the thought of missing out on the activity actually pains you. Hope that helps!

[–]chillsteptrp 40 points41 points  (2 children)

Great post.

My strategy for creating habits is to build momentum - start with small victories and build from there.

For example, when I'm feeling lazy, I begin with something simple - I clean my apartment or some other minor errand that needs to be done. This mentally gives me momentum to do other things that are good for me - go for a run, go to the gym, go cook dinner, go clean my car, etc.

To go back to your post, cleaning my apartment is my cue.

[–]qitjch 6 points7 points  (0 children)

I take a similar approach to what you described. I'd also recommend reading a book called mini habits which I think complements OP's post well.

Basically, it's about creating goals that are so absurdly small that you'd laugh at them. You want to read more? Okay, set a goal of reading just 1 page of a book per day. It's such a small task that you'd have no problem doing it. Ironically, what ends up happening is you'll usually blow that 1 page out of the water and instead read an entire chapter.

In a way it's similar to the momentum building you described, but I think it also helps reduce barriers to starting.

[–]erkomap 15 points16 points  (4 children)

Good post man. I have some troubles with a few of my bad habits. Definitely will read this book, and try out these methods.

[–]pugnaciousvagabond 5 points6 points  (3 children)

It's a solid book! I read it a few years back.

[–]sumant1996 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Read it again, it will feel like a different book.

[–][deleted] 6 points7 points  (1 child)

TED talks are normally trash, so i was skeptical, but here's a really good one related to what you talked about

basically how our brains change to accommodate our habits, at any age - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCSS4f2beDY

[–]CQC3 5 points6 points  (0 children)

Sometimes habits amaze me.

I love going to the gym, I get a bit depressed when I can't go because I really like pumping some iron and letting out some pent up energy. I noticed that when I get sick or take vacations and I'm away from the gym for a week or so, the next week the first day is a bit of a drag to go. The laziness starts to mount even on something I genuinely enjoy doing and rarely skip.

That's some food for thought right there. Momentum is everything, and once you understand that you will also understand that initial resistance is bogus and you can't listen to it.

That's why I've never been a moderation kind of guy for certain things, I'm either all in or I'm out--and not by choice.

[–]ExtraProfane 3 points4 points  (0 children)

You must be relentless in the first couple days of forming a new habit

Just to add on that because readers might have unrealistic expectations: Forming a habit can take from 33 to 90 days, depending on the person.

Don't think "oh it's just for the first week or 2 then we good".

[–]white_girl_lover 6 points7 points  (0 children)

Habits are cool

Flossing my teeth each night is so effortless now, even when I'm stoned

[–]workingmanrush 3 points4 points  (2 children)

I read that book, awesome, powerful, it really has helped me

[–]BenMelon 1 points1 points [recovered]

Didn't see book link in post..? Is it by Dryden?

[–]workingmanrush 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Charles Duhigg, the post pretty much sums up the book

[–]Kryptic_Knight 1 point2 points  (1 child)


Use incentives, the human brain is indirectly stupid, , goad yourself with rewards after and before. But only during said beneficial habit. For example; Going to the gym; I only drink coffee before and after, and only after I've done some kind of workout. I love coffee.

[–]SkoomaKnight 0 points1 point  (0 children)

That's how I feel about preworkout. It makes feel pumped and I also use it to reward myself because I'm about to work out.

[–]anonlymouse 2 points3 points  (9 children)

Interesting. This might be the merit of working out every second day rather than once a week, even though hitting the gym before your muscles have recovered is counterproductive from a strength and muscle growth perspective.

[–]Kromohawk 2 points3 points  (8 children)

Alternate cardio and lifting?

[–]anonlymouse 2 points3 points  (7 children)

As distasteful as doing cardio in a gym sounds, that might be the best solution. Thanks.

[–]Kromohawk 2 points3 points  (3 children)

I have no idea why doing cardio in a gym is distasteful you are welcome

[–]anonlymouse 3 points4 points  (2 children)

I prefer to do it outdoors.

[–]3nebder 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Less cardio bunnies concentrated in one place.

I don't hit on women in the gym yet I appreciate the scenery.

[–]anonlymouse 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I go to the gym right when it opens, have to share it with maybe one or two people. Don't need to wait for any equipment.

[–]red_matrix 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Or you can run outside if that's an option. Being in nature could be part of the reward.

[–]anonlymouse 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Yeah, but if the habit is to be going to the gym, I need to make going to the gym the habit. I already cycle daily, so that wouldn't be developing a new routine.

[–]cashmoney_x 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I'm with ya. I started barefoot running in a forest a few years ago and now I dread every winter even more because I have to put on shoes and even run on a treadmill in inclement weather. As a girl would say, ugh.

[–]Unnormally2 1 point2 points  (4 children)

Trying to get into the habit of cleaning more. But I get horrible sneezing fits from the dust and nose started bleeding from being so raw. Makes things a little difficult.

[–]qitjch 1 point2 points  (0 children)

You could try one of those medical face masks while cleaning.

[–]rockmasterflex 0 points1 point  (1 child)


Also you might consider some kind of air cleaner WHILE you clean? But if your house is that disgustingly dusty dude, i'd be surprised if you didn't already have breathing problems.

[–]Unnormally2 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Haha. More that there are certain parts that aren't touched much so they get dusty, and I'm just trying to get into the habit of cleaning and organizing more.

[–]Shaman6624 0 points1 point  (0 children)

You probably have house mite allergy. Try airing the house in the morning and evening to lower the humidity, they don't like that. Put housemite magnets like woolen blankets and pillows etc. In the freezer for 24 hours and buy a vacuum with a hepa filter.

[–]PIQAS 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I recommend this podcast for whoever is interested into habits

[–]WillKane 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I'm listening to this book now and it's fantastic on Audible.

[–]buyukiskemle 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Thank you. I'm going to try quit smoking, wake up in 7 AM every day, and brush my teeth 2 times in a day.