The key Elements of a Habit


The study of habits has been break habits down into three elements or parts.

There are two leading views about these elements but essentially they come down to the same thing

Charles Duhiggs Habit Loop

According to Charles Duhigg, author of ‘The Power of Habit”, habits consist of three elements, the trigger or cue, the routine and the reward. Duhigg refers to this process as the habit loop.

  1. The Cue/Trigger: the event that starts the habit.
  2. The Routine: the behaviour that is performed.
  3. The Reward: the benefit that you get from the behaviour.

Charles Duhigg explains this loop as:

First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future. Over time, this loop… becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges.

Duhigg advises that to change a habit, you have to first identify the reward that you get. This requires a bit of introspection and experimentation as your initial idea might be wrong.

Once you know the reward you have to figure out a way to get the same reward but through a different routine. This too requires experimentation. (I created a workbook to help you through his habit change theory and you can receive this free when you subscribe to my email list).

Once you know the reward and have figured out a replacement routine it’s just a matter of catching yourself at the cue and implementing the new routine over and over again until the new habit it formed.


Trust me, this is easier said than done.


I highly recommend “The power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg.

power of habit


BJ FOGG and the behaviour model.

BJ Fogg puts this habit loop another way and refers to it as B=MAT.

Behaviour elements:

  1. Motivation
  2. Ability
  3. Trigger

When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing.

An everyday example of this model is answering a phone call.

  1. Your phone rings. This is the reminder that initiates the behavior. The ring acts as a trigger or cue to tell you to answer the phone.
  2. You answer your phone. This is the actual behavior or routine.
  3. You find out who is calling.  Depending on who is calling, this would be the reward (or punishment). You wanted to find out why the person was calling you and discovered that information (the reward for completing the habit.)

Please see some of my other posts for information on changing a habit.