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The Power of Habits

Habits play a crucial role in the societal transformation for sustainable development. Therefore, it is important to change individual habits in particular and social habits in general, to shape a better society. A particular habit, at an individual or societal level, cannot be transformed without understanding the basic mechanism of how habit works.

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A salient feature of our society is the habitual nature of cheating, corruption, violence and laziness among many others. These negative elements are hindering social development. The most important step in addressing the policy-related challenges is to understand the role of habits in social transformation. Habits play a crucial role in the societal transformation for sustainable development. Therefore, it is important to change individual habits in particular and social habits in general, to shape a better society. A particular habit, at an individual or societal level, cannot be transformed without understanding the basic mechanism of how habit works.

We can better understand the structure of a habit via the habit loop. The habit loop is a process that consists of three elements. The first element is widely known as cue. It is a starting point that compels an individual to execute a specific action. The second element is routine. The routine is the behavior or action that may take place due to the presence of cue. The final step is a reward, which is expected as the result of action being taken. For instance, the presence of a cigarette pack or friends (cue) triggers the smoking (routine) in order to feel relaxed (reward).

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Once a habit is looped then it would be efficiently repeated without any conscious effort

The brain always prefers those behaviors that may be executed without mental effort. The habit loop can be clearly explained via a story of Eugene Pauly, also known as EP in medical literature, in Charles Duhiss’s book entitled, ‘The Power of Habits”.  EP had sustained a severe brain injury that led to a memory loss issues. He could not remember anything discussed even a few seconds ago. However, he has still developed the habit of regular walking around the block via a habit loop.

The individual, as well as the organization, can change the habits thereby applying the golden rule of habit change. According to the golden rule, we should adopt a new routine and keep the same cue and reward. For instance, an individual may figure out an alternative routine thereby taking coffee in order to quit smoking. In this case, the cue (feeling tired) and reward (feeling relax) are the same.

Similarly, individuals can insert a new habit to reduce weight thereby avoiding overeating and join a group that tracks weight loss goals together. Similarly, the organization can be transformed via restructuring the keystone habits. For instance, STARBUCKS has looped the LATTE (listen, acknowledge, take action, thank them and explained why the problem occur) habit to become a world-renowned organization.

Read more: Climate change forces Arctic animals to shift feeding habits: study

Keeping in view the above discussion, it is very important for individuals, organizations, and society to deeply follow/implement the mechanism of habit in order to loop the champion habits for the betterment of society. Furthermore, the government needs to figure out different best citizenship behaviors and loop them via awareness and training among the target population to reduce crime rate, corruption, and laziness and achieve peace and economic stability. A deep understanding of habits is the only way forward to resolve policy-related challenges.

 

The writer is an assistant professor at the Fatima Jinnah Women’s University (FJWU), Rawalpindi. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space