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How to Build Good Habits and Excel as a Junior Developer Part 2: What Are Habits

Building Good Habits as a Junior Developer pt.2

In the previous article, Part 1, we learned that forming good habits are essential to helping us excel as junior developers. Our identity, values, and our principles drive the loop of forming good habits. In this article I want to cover several items:

  • How do we really do that?
  • What good are habits?
  • How do I stick to new habits and make them part of my daily routine so that I can continue to form better habits in the future?

Why are Habits Important?

The ultimate purpose of habits is to solve the problems of life with as little energy and effort as possible. Think about it, what are some of your daily habits? How much thought goes into actually doing them? Not very much, right? Brushing your teeth is a daily habit that you really don't think much about; it just comes naturally and solves the problem of preventing bad breath and horrible oral hygiene. Some of your other habits are the same way: putting your keys in the same place when you get home, how you get dressed in the morning, or what you do before bed every night. These habits are so effortless that you really don't think about them.
Every habit can be broken down into a loop with FOUR common steps. These steps are the backbone of every habit. Our brains run through this loop in the same order every single time.

Stages of Habit

Stages of Habit

  • Cue: Your phone notification of a new message
  • Craving: You want to know what that message says
  • Response: You grab your phone and read the message
  • Reward: You have satisfied the craving to read the message Now grabbing your phone becomes associated with your phone buzzing.

Cues predict rewards; we are designed to hunt for rewards. Cues naturally lead to Craving that Reward. Cravings are the motivational force behind our habits. If you do not have some motivation or desire — no craving to change, you will have no reason to act.
We do not crave the habit itself, we crave the change it delivers. Every craving that we have is linked directly to a desire to change our internal state.

We aren't motivated to brush our teeth but we are motivated by a clean mouth.
Smokers don't crave smoking a cigarette, they crave the relief it gives them.

We know what Cues and Cravings look like. What about Response? Response is the actual habit you perform; whether an action or a thought based habit. This is the part where motivation plays a role. Depending on how motivated you are will dictate whether a response is triggered or not.
Another factor is how much friction there is that is associated with a behavior. Realistic habits can only occur if you are capable of it.

If you want to slam dunk a basketball but you aren't able to jump high enough to do so, that habit is not going to happen.

Finally, we have the Reward. This is the end goal of all habits. The Cue is about noticing the reward. The Craving is about wanting it. The Response is the action or thought to obtain the reward. Rewards serve two purposes:

  1. They satisfy us
  2. They teach us. We can easily see how a reward would satisfy us: promotions, getting in shape, or eating a good meal. What do rewards teach us? Rewards teach us which Responses are worth remembering in the future. If a new behavior isn't sufficient in any of the four stages, it will not become a habit. Without the first three steps, a behavior will not occur and without all four steps it will not be repeated.

The Habit Loop

The Habit Loop

"Success is the product of daily habits—not once-in-a-lifetime transformations." -James Clear

All behavior is driven by the desire to solve a problem. Either we see something good and we want it or we are experiencing pain and we want to relieve that pain. The purpose of every habit is to solve the problems we face. As adults we barely notice the habits that run our lives because after years of mental programming it just happens. Most people don't notice they tie the same shoe first every morning. So how do we go about changing our habits?

Coming Up

Hopefully this article gives you an understanding of how habits work. In the next article, we will go over the Four Laws of Behavior Change and dive deeper into how they can help us form better habits and give us the best chance at succeeding in this industry and in life.
As always, feedback and input are greatly appreciated. Thank you all for reading and commenting on the first article. I truly feel blessed.

Top comments (1)

jschleigher profile image
James Schleigher

Thanks for sharing! Clearly defining our goals is very important. Also, I think it's also important to break them into smaller steps so that we will not be overwhelmed and lose motivation in the middle. I like using project management software to manage all of my tasks and even my personal life. So far, I really like Todoist and Quire.