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Harnessing Habits

By Katherine Groves

We’re still in the time of year where everybody wants to recommit to themselves. A better career, better work, better home life, better body, better relationships – a better you. Having goals is great. Having a plan, even better. But sometimes no matter how simple our goals or how hard we try or what plans we put into place, we do not succeed and give-up after setbacks. We can be our own worst enemy. Why?

These things called our habits have invaded our lives and caused us to derail, sometimes immediately, sometimes after a week or two. Habits are a necessary building block of our lives. They are automatic responses to our environment and interactions with it. They allow our brains to take a break and focus on more important things happening around us. They can be good or bad (although our brains cannot tell the difference), simple or complex, and we can be completely aware or unaware of the habits in our lives.

Thankfully, due to many scientists performing countless experiments, and through authors who have studied these experiments and written about them in layman’s terms, we have a much better understanding of what a habit is and how our brain works to form, keep, and change these habits.

At the foundation of habits is this idea called the behavior loop. It consists of three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward. And it all gets set into motion by a thing called cravings!

The cycle all begins with a cue – a trigger that tells the brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. These cues can be social (meeting or party), emotional (depression or joy), biological (hunger pangs), mental (stress, thoughts), or environmental (time of day, place). Once a cue is noticed, the cravings (strong desires) kick in through our thoughts and feelings (both mind and body). This is because our brain has recognized that, if it completes the routine associated with that cue, a reward will occur. This will satisfy the body and the brain because the body will attain its strong desire and the routine will be completed without the brain having to think about.

By understanding this process, we can start to break down our behavior and begin to recognize what causes us to fail or succeed when trying to reach our goals. Doing this on your own or trying to figure out the process can be a bit … intimidating. That is why having resources and support is very important to identifying your habits so you can reach your goals. Be it through an online support group, a friend, or coworker, you can help yourself succeed when you employ the help of others.

Sometimes support may come in the form of a book, such as The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, or Atomic Habits by James Clear. Both books take the time to break down the habit loop, how and why our brains formed it, and give you tools on how you can identify your habits and either create or change those to become that better you. There are also many apps available for a person to download, created to assist you on your journey to whatever destination you have in mind. Some even have guided plans to assist you for common obstacles people face (e.g., increase productivity, reduce stress, eliminate sugar, lose weight, boost self-confidence).

In the end, the best thing you can do for yourself is realize this is change, and change takes time. Start small, forgive yourself when you misstep.  But try not to miss more than one day in a row of completing a task.  If you fall off the proverbial wagon, just pick yourself up again and start fresh the next day.  If you keep walking down the path of habit change with small steps, you’ll find those changes will permeate into other areas of your life.  And suddenly you are attaining your goal (and maybe even more) and becoming the better person you intended to be!

About SimVentions, Inc.: SimVentions is a 100% employee-owned DoD contractor focused on developing, integrating, and transitioning new technology to our country’s warfighters. SimVentions’ corporate office is located at 100 Riverside Pkwy, Suite 123, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, 22406. Their Dahlgren office address is 17021 Combs Drive Suite D, in King George, VA 22485 and their Virginia Beach office address is 468 Viking Dr #210, Virginia Beach, VA 23452. For additional information about SimVentions, please visit

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