Mastering the Habit Loop

Even if we don’t recognize it, all our daily actions are just a collection of habits that we have built over time. Literally everything from the way we brush our teeth, tie our shoe laces and the side of the bed we wake up on. We often overlook these activities as part of our daily living, never evoking from a scientific lens. Once habits are formed, our actions become autonomous and require minor conscious strength.  Habits make us the people we are, they rule the type of lives we live and most importantly, they are a key factor when it comes to determining our fates.

Therefore, If we can identify the structure and mechanics of habits, we can then change our lives towards the direction of our respective purposes. We can break the shackles that hold our present selves in and liberate ourselves for growth in the future. We can take responsibility for our lives and steer the ship where our destinations are. Recently I came across an incredible book by Charles Duhigg called “The Power of Habit”. This incredible piece of literature concerns itself with the science of habits of people, businesses and in a grander scheme, our entire society. I highly recommend this book to anyone on the path to self-improvement. In the book Duhigg explains the habit loop, a flow chart on how habits function and how we can change them.

According to Duhigg, every habit consists of a Cue, Routine and a Reward. These three parts create what is known as the habit loop.

 

The Cue:

Every habit starts with a cue. Identifying the cue is the most important part when it comes to changing habits. For example, If someone has a habit of snacking on unhealthy snacks, they must identify what makes them gravitate towards this routine. For some people this might be having unhealthy food in sight, or getting bored, or even watching television. Everyone has different cues for different habits. In order to change unhealthy habits, the cue must first be identified. So identify the signal that makes you snack, smoke, or whatever habit you are trying to change.

The Reward:

The next step is identifying the reward you get from the routine of the habit. Analyzing the aforementioned habit of snacking on unhealthy foods, we can see that the reward from this activity is the “high” or pleasure produced from the taste of the snack. Identifying the reward allows us to see what we actually crave from our habits.  It also makes it easier for us to change our habits if we can identify the reward. Observing these patterns of cues and rewards will ultimately help us change our routine.

The Routine:

This is the part of the habit that we are trying to change. This is the snacking, the smoking, the biting nails part. Once the cue and reward of this routine is identified, it is necessary that another healthier routine is put into action that provides the same reward. For example, Once we get the urge to smoke (cue) if we are looking for a “high” from cigarettes, we can replace the act of smoking (the routine) with something healthier such as exercising, hence creating the same reward of feeling a “high”.

Here is a rough illustration  of how this happens:

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Through this understanding, bad habits can be replaced with habits that can really add value to our lives. Taking responsibility for our daily habits help us drive towards our long-term goals and purpose.

These concepts can be further explored in depth in “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg.

Stay Golden,

M Kazi.

 

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Uncertainty and Growth.

Uncertainty of life is often seen as an obstacle or hindrance. However, what is often overseen is the fact that almost all things in life are uncertain. The issue with our modern brains is that we are biologically predisposed to seek certainty and comfort, in order to maximize our chances of survival. This was quite useful back when humans faced actual threats that could kill them such as disease or predators. We are now situated in an era of comfort, where satisfaction can be bought at a touch of button and information can be passed on instantly. Science and modern technology has also eliminated multitudes of  threats to our existence, leaving our brains grappling at certainty.  And so, at every given situation in life, we always reassure ourselves saying that we are certain about the situation and its circumstances, when in reality, this certainty is just an illusion.

I honestly believe that to think that we know a situation to be certain such as ” I am certain that I won’t get this job, therefore I won’t apply to it” is ludicrous and misleading. Having this kind of comforting mentality inhibits us from reaching our true potential in love and life. Comfort causes stagnancy and inhibits growth. See if we were always comfortable, we wouldn’t be going anywhere or taking chances. Even though our biology tells us to  stay where we are and to seek comfort, I believe it is important to get out of our comfort bubbles and experience life.

Outside of the bubble of comfort and certainty is where true growth occurs. We can truly experience life unfiltered and take challenges that are uncomfortable but necessary. This will also help us have an abundant mindset  as we don’t settle for what is at hand. Not settling for what’s comfortable gives us power over what we truly want and desire in life. In “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” Mark Manson clearly cements this idea of pushing yourself to be uncomfortable. Manson states that ” Certainty is the enemy of growth”, as growth can only take place when uncertainty is available.

Only two things in this life are certain, death and taxes. Literally everything else is plastic, it might be here for another ten years or ten seconds. Accept the uncertainties in your life and work with them rather than against. So the next time you are “certain” that you won’t get the job, the girl or the life you want, push yourself into uncertainty and take action. Be comfortable being uncomfortable and allow yourself to be the strongest version of yourself, because you deserve the best.

Stay Golden,

M Kazi.

Mindful Not Mind full.

Recently I picked up a book that has changed my entire outlook and perspective on our existence. The “Power of Now” written by Eckhart Tolle explores and emphasizes the endless possibilities that occur when we become conscious of our presence. Being present causes us to become fully engaged in activity and therefore enter a trans like “no-mind” state where consciousness rises above thought. In this state there is no fear, expectations, anxiety, future or past. The only thing that we have control of and that exists is the present moment.

The human brain is biologically programmed to overthink every situation and every possible situation that might arise. This was elementary to your ancestors survival and the overall survival of the human race. Unfortunately, in today’s societal context, this means worrying about future events that MIGHT happen and running them over and over in your head. Our minds restrict us from doing things that we desire to by creating these scenarios and inducing stress, worry, expectations and ultimately fear. Often times I find that my mind is cluttered with hypothetical scenarios and I’m not fully aware of  whatever I am doing at the time. Im thinking of a hundred different scenarios and my mind drifts of into the future and not the present. It creates a negative feedback loop where I am constantly feeding these scenarios with more scenarios.

Thinking about a million “what if” scenarios in your head causes you to lose engagement in the present moment. You are creating false expectation, false fear and false worry. Understand that the only moment that you have control over is the now. The future and the past don’t exist. Fully engage in daily life and declutter your mind. Find that “no mind” state where your mind is calm and fully attending to the surrounding. That zen feeling where you can truly appreciate what is going on around you. Don’t bank on the future and made up scenarios created by your mind. Realize that you are here now and that is what is important. Don’t try to live in the future or get stuck in the past because that will only create gaps in your life which your mind will fill with anxiety and fear.

Be here now and be feel presence at all times. Clear your mind and let creativity, happiness and good vibrations flow in. Don’t resist feelings and emotions in the present. Fully feel and fully address yourself. Let your consciousness rise above thought and let that empower the now. Do what you want to do and be present such that fear, expectations and worries don’t hold you and your true potential back. You will find that once you are fully engaged, all activities in your life will be more intensified and enjoyable.

Reach new heights, grow stronger and always remember to honour the present moment as that is all we have control over as we navigate through this spectacular journey called life.

Stay Golden,

Mashrur Kazi.

Cut The Grass.

As I grow older, it has become more and more apparent to me that we are a direct byproduct of our environment. The media we consume, the materials we buy and the people we surround ourselves with all seem to have impact on the person we are. Understanding this concept will ultimately allow us to mould our lives and grow into the the future versions of ourselves that we aspire to be. It gives us a way to analyze and and acquire introspection on our growth or stagnation towards our goals.

As Neil Pasricha puts it in his book “The Happiness Equation”, we are a direct reflection of 5 of our closest friends. This is apparent everywhere, just look at your social circle and you will find everyone in that group has similar habits, interests, values and morals. When around a group people, we seem to latch onto their habits, style of speech and grow into similar paths. Understanding this concept is key as it will allow you to mould relationships that will aid you to your success. When you are surrounded by people that don’t share the same  high ambition as you and only imposes negativity, growth becomes stagnated. The group’s mindset will hold you back and halt your journey towards your goals and ultimately your success.

It is important to surround yourself with like minded people that will help you grow and prosper to your full potential. People that will bring you up rather than kick you down. Make your group small but productive. Help each other grow and reach new horizons because there is no greater joy than helping your true friends grow and having that be reciprocated towards you. Cut out anyone that is holding you back and doesn’t fully have your best intentions. Letting go will allow the previous mindset to fade and aid you to reach greater heights.

At the end of the day, I live by this quote ” People who mind, don’t matter and people who matter, don’t mind”. True friends will raise you up and be there when shit hits the fan, so its time we value them. You should be able to fully express yourself around the people that truly matter and strive together towards a better you. So go forth and crush it with your team.

Stay Golden,

M Kazi

Be Here.

I’ve spent the greater part of the last four months trying to figure out who I am and who I need to be. I have spent a lot of time traveling and being with my loved ones. Going into summer 2016, I was a first year student who was burnt out to the point of complete exhaustion. My body, my mind and spirit was at an all time low. I was disgusted by what I became through the course of the last year (my first year of university). Broken, physically exasperated, I looked towards this summer as an escape to hit my reset button and discover myself at the deepest level.

Hence, as summer commenced, I flew out to Western Canada to be with my family and travel. Alongside some cousins, I managed to go on multiple road trips. I have hiked up to the peaks of 5 different mountains found in the Rockies range in Alberta. I have traveled to the most western part of Canada and had the humbling experience of swimming in the Pacific Ocean for the first time in my life. On one of my hikes, I even had a adrenaline pumped Grizzly encounter. Between these adventures, I was able to fix my diet and exercise plan which helped me get back into shape and feel confident once again. As you can imagine, with all these trips and exciting things happening in my life, I was finally coming out of my stress filled depressed bubble that has built up over time. I was enjoying life for what it had to offer.

These opportunities also gave me an insight on the importance of presence and why we should always be present at all times. This important realization hit me as I was taking a lot of photographs of all the places I was visiting. Even though these places were absolutely breathtaking I was seeing the world through the lens of my camera and not my own self. I was not being present and was not appreciative of what true beauty I was actually witnessing. I was not present enough to truly absorb the greatness of nature and the world around us. It humbled me to understand that there is so much going on at all times, that we just need to take a minute, step back and truly be aware of our surroundings. These adventures were a great escape from the chaos of life and the cycle we all seem to be trapped in.

Only when we are present, we can truly be free. Let the past be in the past, and the future be in the future. Life is too short to be worried about what is to come and what has come, Instead invest your time in being here now, being present and being alive.Once you can appreciate presence and let go, life becomes colourful and vivid.

Stay Golden,

Mashrur Kazi

Creating Space

The best life to live in my opinion is a life filled with balance. Balance between work, play, family, friends and hobbies. Unfortunately to most of us this balance almost never occurs due to the habits, workload and other external factors. Most of our days are spent working hours and hours away on assignments, school work or just plain work to put food on the table. During these hours of hard labour, we tend to burnout with high thinking and high doing. This burnout causes us to be fatigued and disrupts the balance of work and play. Work takes up a lot of our time that should go towards living. This article is all about how you can reduce this time spend at work and hopefully get more productive hours in, such that you can create space for life.

Many of us find ourselves in a mode of panic right before our work is due. Spending hours on the internet and dragging on work until the very last minute. Our gears don’t start grinding earlier on as we feel like we have a lot of time until work needs to be done. But the truth of it is, people that get shit done, get it done through habits and discipline. We can create space and have productive hours through removing time. How do you remove time? simple, set yourself a false deadline that is earlier than the actual deadline. This will trick your mind to start of those gears early and actually finishing work ahead of the actual deadline, hence creating space for other activities. Without time to lean on, we won’t have the option to delay work and won’t be overloaded with it.

Next step to creating space is a significant one. Remove all distractions while working. In the age of internet, possible sources of distraction are endless. From checking social media to watching endless clips on youtube, and clips elsewhere.  Simple solution to this problem can be just hiding your phone while you work or getting extensions on your internet browser that blocks certain sites such as Facebook during your work period. This also removes the choices for distraction and so we get a much more productive work period resulting in more space for life.

Lastly, surround yourself with people that are going towards the same goal as you. You are a reflection of the people that you hangout with.Being around motivated people with similar goals will allow you to grow and aid you into finding this balance between work and life. Create space for life is short and should be lived to the fullest.

This blog was inspired by Neil P. and his book “The Happiness Equation”. I highly recommend reading it if you are looking for ways to organize your life and have more meaning towards your existence. These are simply my views that I have drawn from reading this amazing book, so take the advice as you may.

Stay Golden,

Mashrur Kazi

 

The Culture of More

In today’s society everyone is concerned with the newest growing fashion trends, newest stars, newest tech gadgets and list goes on and on. We live in a culture where it is the norm to seek the latest versions of everything and to never be satisfied with what we have. This endless cycle of wanting more, leaves us discontent with our lives. Wanting more money, more cars, more houses leaves us with false hope of happiness once we achieve these goals.  We end up comparing ourselves to each other, creating extrinsic goals based on what other people have and thinking that achieving this goal will cause us to be happy. Now stop for a second and think about all the times you told yourself that you will be happy once you reach a certain goal that is motivated by extrinsic factors such as money. How many times do we tell ourselves that we will be happy once we get the newest phones, newest computers, a new job that pays more. But once we get the new job position, new phone we quickly become somber and look towards the next big thing.

One may argue that this culture of always wanting more can be explained through our evolutionary past. If our ancestors stopped wanting more, and became satisfied with what they had we probably wouldn’t be here today. But back then survival was our priority and life expectancy was around 30, so it made sense that our ancestors kept wanting more. But in today’s society where the global life expectancy is around 71, where we have everything we need to live a comfortable life, a place where we can instantly connect with people thousands of miles apart, why is it that a lot of us are still unhappy with what we have? A large contributor to this problem is the media. The media sheds light upon comparison, comparing what each star has to another, what hairstyle is trending, what fashion trends are growing, we are always bombarded with information about how to dress, what is cool, what is not cool, how to act such that other people like you. The media conditions us to think that we need more than we have. And once the ball gets rolling, its almost certain that we will cave into the cycle of setting extrinsic goals and achieving them, while still not being satisfied.

Concerning everything discussed in this post, I should also include the fact that not falling to this culture is very difficult and almost impossible. I, myself is a victim to consumerism and do more times than not have caved into this culture of finding satisfaction through extrinsic motivational triggers. I am not saying to never upgrade your phone, or to feel guilty if you happen to follow the newest fashion trends. I am just saying to take a step back once in a  while and be grateful for what you have. Know that you have enough, and enough will get you by just fine. Do things for yourself, and not for some bullshit extrinsic reason such as social capital, money and social acceptance. Don’t compare your success and values to others as it will lead to the endless cycle of wanting more as mentioned above. Just remember, you are alive, which means you have already won the lottery. Soak in what life has to offer, and know that you are alive and have enough.

These are just my views of the society we live in. Most of the ideas presented were developed from the book I’m reading currently called “The Happiness Equation” by Neil P. I recommend that you check it out.  Your views might be different than the ones I talked about and thats awesome too.

Lastly, Im just going to leave with a link to a story that sums up this blog perfectly. http://www.wanttoknow.info/051230whatmattersinlife

Stay Golden,

Mashrur Kazi