Nice OneNice One LikeLike InformativeInformative BestBest OMGOMG WOWWOW

How can you form and change a habit?

Habit formation is the process by which behaviours become automatic. Habits can be formed unintentionally, but they can also be deliberately cultivated, modified and eliminated to contribute to one’s journey of personal growth. Understanding how habits take shape may be helpful in dismantling and replacing them.

The Four-step Framework of Habit Formation.

James clear, in his well renowned book Atomic Habits, beautifully explains how habits are formed in four simple stages to help us understand the dynamics of habit formation and the way we can transform the habits to exploit our maximum potential.

According to Clear’s framework, our brain runs through the four steps in the same order each time we form a habit. The four steps framework works like a habit loop in our brain. If we break the chain of the loop at any stage it would be easier to change or break a habit. All habits proceed through these stages in the same order each time: Cue, Craving, Response, and Reward.

  • Cue: The cue triggers our brain to initiate behaviour. It is a bit of information that predicts a reward. Our mind is continuously analysing our internal and external environment for hints of rewards. Our brain pays attention to cues that signal the location of primary rewards like food, water, and other basic needs. We also spend most of our time learning cues that predict secondary rewards like money and fame, power and status, praise and approval, love and friendship, or a sense of personal satisfaction. The cue indicates that we are closer to the reward which leads to craving.
  • Craving: The craving is the motivation force behind every habit. The craving gives us a reason to act and behave in a certain way. However, we don’t crave the habit itself but the change in state it delivers. We do not crave chocolates; we crave the feeling of taste it provides. We are not motivated to sleep more but rather by the feeling of being rested. Every craving is linked to a desire to change your internal state.
  • People are not triggered by the same cues. Cues are meaningless until they are interpreted by the observer’s thoughts, feelings and emotions. For example a person who doesn’t like pizza won’t take its smell as a cue to crave for it whereas a pizza lover can crave for it just by taking an image of a pizza as a cue. The associations the observer creates with the cue that transforms it into a craving. Different people have different cravings.
  • Response: Response is the habit we actually perform. It can be seen either as an action or even a thought. The response depends on the ability and motivation we carry towards the craving. If the effort required to fulfil a craving is more than what we are willing to invest we might not invest in the craving at all. It might sound strange but a habit can only occur if we are capable and willing to do it. If I don’t have enough physical strength I may not even participate in a marathon to satisfy my craving of wining it.
  • Rewards: The rewards received in the process satisfy our cravings and also provide benefits of their own. Rewards deliver momentary contentment and relief from craving. Rewards also teach us which actions are worth remembering in the future. Our brain constantly detects the rewards present in our internal and our external environment. Our sensory nervous system is constantly monitors the actions which satisfy our desires and deliver pleasure. Feelings of pleasure and disappointment are part of the feedback mechanism that helps your brain sort useful actions from useless ones. Rewards close the feedback loop and complete the habit cycle. The four stages of habit are best described as a feedback loop. They form an endless cycle that is running every moment we are alive. This “habit loop” is continually scanning the environment, predicting what will happen next, trying out different responses, and learning from the results.

To understand the four steps framework better let us apply it in a real-world example:

Cue:  Waking up in the morning.

Craving: to be alert.

Response: Drinking a cup of coffee

Reward: The craving to feel alert is satisfied.

Habit:  Drinking coffee after waking up.

   The way to change a habit.

To change any habit, we can split these four steps into two phases: the problem phase and the solution phase. The problem phase includes the cue and the craving, and it is when we realize that something needs to change. The solution phase includes the response and the reward, and it is when we take action to achieve the change we desire.

All behaviours are driven by the desire to solve a problem. Sometimes the problem is that we notice something good and we wish to obtain it at all costs. At other times, we may experience pain and needs to be relieved. Either way, the purpose of every habit is to solve the problems we face. To bring about a change in any existing habit all we need to do is:

  • Make the cue invisible.
  • Make the craving unattractive
  • Make the response difficult
  • Make the reward unsatisfactory

Whenever we want to change our behaviours, we can consider these questions:

  • How can I make the change obvious?
  • How can I make the change attractive?
  • How can I make the change easy?
  • How can I make the change satisfying?

For example, to change a habit of not working out regularly, We can start with giving ourselves simple visual cues of our sports shoes, yoga mats etc.

We can think about the health benefits and the fashion choices we can make to reinforce our craving to stay fit. We can respond by beginning with easy and doable exercises. We can be satisfied by rewarding ourselves even for small achievements to feel the pleasure and complete the feedback loop.

This four-step framework actually unleashes our power to change our habits consciously.



Clear, J. (2018). Atomic habits: Tiny changes, remarkable results: an easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones. New York: Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Duhigg, Charles, author. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. New York :Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2014.


What do you think?

512 Points

Written by Ria Gidwani

Story MakerYears Of Membership
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Simran Rai

your habits determine your future.. Great article 🙂

Jigyasa vashistha

this is such a wonderful article!! thanks for writing 🙂

Jigyasa vashistha


Simone Morarka

A very interesting read! Great job :))

Simone Morarka

Looking forward to more of your work :))

Ritu Mishra

Well written 🙂

Riya Rajkotiya

You have done a great job

Riya Rajkotiya

Well Written

Nidhi Dahiya

Interesting read! Keep writing