“Habits can be changed, if we understand how they work,” writes Charles Duhigg in his excellent book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Rebuilding the patterns that lead to habits is the key to making fundamental behavioral changes. In the book, Duhigg describes how habits literally change the brain, particularly the basal ganglia, our brain’s autopilot. Habit change is really about getting the basal ganglia to kick in for the habits we want to form, and diverting it from the habits we want to avoid. To do this, Duhigg describes how to change the cue-routine-reward habit loop. The key to defeating a habit is creating new routines that kick in after a cue.
The ideas in the book are a great complement to those behind our app. Grade Your Day tries to gamify good and bad habits in a way that helps a user eventually replace a routine related to a bad habit with a routine related to a good habit. This ties into Duhigg's idea of a "keystone habit," which are the habits that can create a virtuous (or vicious) cycle of second and third order effects.
A keystone habit might be getting to bed early, which improves the chances of going to the gym, eating right, and avoiding caffeine the next day. Of course there are negative keystone habits. For example, routinely watching TV in the evening might lead to snacking and drinking late into the night, resulting in sleep loss and associated negative effects the next day. Once we recognize what our keystone habits are, we can create a game--a competition against ourselves--that rewards going to bed early and penalizes watching TV, for example. The ability to gamify our daily routines has great potential for self-improvement and is a key aspect of our app.
Please check out The Power of Habit. We think you'll find it an incredibly enlightening read!