The science of building a habit

Habit formation happens in 21 days? WRONG.

If you understand the science behind it, you can build any habit. And here it is.

For a drug like cocaine, some people can get hooked in just one dose – others may take longer but still, it can be less than 21 days. On the other hand, building the morning workout habit can take much longer. What’s the difference?

Answer: Dopamine levels.

The more dopamine an activity releases, the more quickly it becomes hardwired as a habit. Cocaine causes a dopamine blast that the brain has never seen. That is why it hooks so quickly. (Incidentally, it also destroys dopamine receptors – don’t ever touch these drugs.)

But morning workout does not cause such a gush of dopamine because it doesn’t give pleasure, at least initially.

Then is building difficult habits a lost cause? Not really.

Dopamine release happens not just from pleasure but also from a sense of achievement. And that is the key to success.

Often, when we are building difficult habits, we don’t really crave it – we don’t get a sense of achievement. That is when we quit.

If you truly want to build a habit, YOU have to want it.

And if you want it enough, the sense of achievement will cause enough dopamine release for you to pull through. And once the habit is built, it truly becomes pleasurable. There are few things I love as much as working out or running.

That is how you build any habit, no matter how difficult.

– Rajan

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