Habits Revisited

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All right.

We’re chugging along a few more left.

Let’s talk about habits.

Something we’ve already talked about.

If you remember in the science section we talked about how habits are energy savers of our brain where

the brain doesn’t have to think about it and we just do it.

We have a habit of brushing our teeth let’s say with our right hand which is easy.

We don’t have to think about it but as soon as we switch hands and brush our teeth with the opposite

hand it becomes difficult.

It now becomes something that we have to be mentally engaged in.

Habits are energy savers of our brain.

Now there’s two very good books on habits that I highly recommend.

One is The Power of Habit by Charles de Hewitt.

And in this book Charles mentions four things that we need to form habits or the steps of habits.

One is what we call the cue that is something that triggers us and puts us in that habit mode and that

automatic pilot.

For example if you’re brushing your teeth putting on the toothpaste putting that toothbrush to your

teeth puts you in that zombie mode.

Maybe when you’re driving you turn on the car and then you hit the accelerator that puts you in that

zombie mode of driving which you’ve done many times maybe putting on your gym clothes is a cue to workout.

That’s the cue.

The second is the routine.

This is what your brain does to respond to the cue.

So the cue is almost like the trigger and the routine is the ritual.

So for example if you put your gym clothes next to your bed that’s the cue when you wake up in the morning

to look at your gym clothes.

And that triggers the routine of saying oh in the past five days every time I look at the gym clothes

when I wake up I put them on and I go workout.

That’s the routine.

The third is the reward.

Every habit should give us something that makes us feel good.

If we’re creating a habit that is negative that doesn’t make us feel good.

Well we’re not gonna keep doing it.

Hopefully ideally there should be a reward.

Even smoking is a habit because it gives us that immediate reward of feeling good.

At least that’s what people tell me.

I’ve never smoked in my life.

The fourth and final thing to form a habit is this idea of a belief habits have the power because you

actually believe in them.

You believe that it gives you a reward.

You believe that it’s good for you.

Maybe cigarettes aren’t good for you but they relax you they make you relax when you’re stressed out.

This belief our internal belief that this is something that is good for us or that makes us feel good

is part of a habit.

Now one of the key things with habits and why they’re so useful when it comes to learning and we want

to form learning habits is that a lot of people use willpower as a way to force themself to learn a

topic or practice something.

Let’s say you wanted to become a marathon runner.

We use willpower to force ourselves to run every day to run 10 kilometers 20 kilometers 30 kilometers.

But willpower is actually a terrible strategy to get you to a goal to get you to be an efficient learner


Habits are actually a better strategy.

They’re energy savers.

So because habits don’t rely on willpower and instead say if I want to run every day what are the habits

that I can form again.

We can put our running close by our bed it may be our habit is to just put on our running clothes because

once we put them on early in the morning we’re more likely to go for a run.

So we almost don’t have to use our willpower until we have our running clothes on us.

Maybe even our shoes on and then the willpower needed to go for a run is a lot less than if we walk

out of bed and said All right.

Now I have to go find my clothes.

I have to go grab my shoes.

So on and so forth.

Now the second book that I highly recommend when it comes to habits is atomic habits by James Clear.

If you find yourself failing over and over at adopting a productive or efficient learning habit.

James Clear says that you probably made these four mistakes.

These are four things that you need.

He calls them the four laws of behavior change and whenever these four aren’t met then it’s not going

to change our behavior.

It’s not going to make us a more efficient learner.

So what are these four laws.

One is that it has to be obvious is the habit obvious.

What is the exact thing that you want to accomplish.

Is there a roadmap is there a clear goal that you want to accomplish.

The second is it has to be easy.

Have you made it as easy as possible for you to form this habit again putting your workout clothes next

to your bed is a great example of this.

The third is to make a habit attractive is the outcome of this habit.

Attractive to us does it make us feel good.

Does it lead to a better paying job.

Does it make us more respected in our community.

The goal of the habit has to be attractive and then finally it has to be satisfying.

Does this habit reward us.

Does it give us external internal motivation or reward.

The idea is that we’re more likely to repeat this habit over and over when it’s satisfying to us so

learning what we just did about habits.

All right we get it.

Habits are good.

Good habits are good and we all kind of know this.

How can you implement it.

Well one of my favorite techniques is called Don’t break the chain.

And the idea is that to form a habit you just need to do it over and over and over until it becomes

a habit.

And the technique of don’t break the chain was actually pioneered by the comedian Jerry Seinfeld who

used to practice standup comedy every single day every single day.

He formed the habit of performing comedy routines so that each day he got better and better.

Now I’ll link to some of my favorite resources for don’t break the chain but a simple example of don’t

break the chain method is to simply have a calendar that is visible to you that you can cross off each


For example if you want to practice language learning you can tell yourself that I’m not going to break

the chain every day.

I’m going to do something small no matter how small I’m going to do it.

So you mark when it’s done you cross off the calendar and you try to not break the chain.

And each day you have something like crossing off the calendar or clicking on a button that makes you

feel like you accomplished something.

And you know what.

Don’t break the chain actually works because look how pretty that looks.

But when you see a broken chain it doesn’t feel good.

You want to keep it consistent.

This little technique a small act of crossing off something on your calendar or using some of the apps

that are linked to can actually help you form these healthy efficient learning habits.

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