Want to Break a Habit? Change Your Reward

By Jimmy Warden

A misconception about habit change is to change your behavior. Sounds correct, right?

Not necessarily. Here’s why.

Each time you engage in a behavior, you start to create a habit loop. The habit loop consists of three things: cue, behavior, and reward.

A lot of people try to change their behavior when they’re trying to break a habit. The misstep there is they not considering the reward.

The reward is the anchor of behavior.

People engage in the same behaviors because they get an enjoyable reward that comes immediately after the behavior.

If you want to set sail on your path to growth, you need to hoist that anchor.

I’ll give you an example. I’ve struggled with binge eating. I’d binge eat to the point where my stomach literally couldn’t handle any more food. It made me feel like shit, but I kept doing it.

Why? Because I loved the rewards.

I loved the reward of not having to eat for at least another 14-16 hours. I loved the reward of not having to deal with the problems in my life and my mind.

The sad part? I wasn’t aware that feeling like shit was the reward.

When I forced myself to sit with the post-binge-eating feeling, I realized that feeling wasn’t a reward.

How did I change this behavior? I changed my reward.

After learning about mindful eating, I started to eat my meals with more presence of mind. I would smell my food, notice all the tastes and textures as I was chewing, and wait until the food was liquified to swallow.

Since implementing this strategy, I have not had a binge-eating episode.

Becoming aware of the reward a behavior brings increases your understanding of why you engage in that behavior.

It will lead to new insights that might make you want to change your behavior.

So, if you have behaviors you’re not proud of, and you want to change them, think about the reward they bring.

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