How To Know if A Behavior is Habitual? Measuring Habits

PaulJuly 18, 2017

All this talk about habits, but what actually is a habit?

In simple terms, we can define a habit as an automatic behavior​...

Delving deeper, a habit has these main characteristics:-

  1. Bottom up - ​meaning that habits are automatic with no conscious thought or attention required
  2. Impulsive - does not require intention
  3. Directly cueued - triggered by some kind of external stimulus
  4. Effortless initiation - once cueued, they are pretty much automatic

Brushing your teeth or having a shower each morning probably satisfies all the above criteria, because they're habitual.

​How Can We Tell if an Existing Behavior has become Habitual?

This has been the focus of many scientific studies about behavior and habit formation...

The best model they've come up with so far is something called the The Self Report Habit Index (SRHI).  This is simply a series of 12 questions that you can answer yourself about a behavior that you currently do.

​This particular method was used in the "famous" study about how long it takes to form a habit to figure out whether participant behaviors had become habitual or not.

The Self Report Habit Index (SRHI)

Below is the complete SRHI questionnaire that you can use to figure out if a behavior you have is habitual.  

Answer the questions as honestly as possible 😉

Behavior X is something...

  1. I do frequently
  2. I do automatically
  3. I do without having to consciously remember
  4. that makes me feel weird if I do not do it
  5. I do without thinking
  6. that would require effort not to do it
  7. that belongs to my (daily, weekly, monthly) routine
  8. I start doing before I realize I'm doing it
  9. I would find hard not to do
  10. I have no need to think about doing
  11. that's typically me
  12. I have been doing for a long time

Instructions:-

  • For each question, answer from 1 to 7
  • Answer 1 if you strongly disagree with the statement and answer 7 if you completely agree.

The higher your total score, the more habitual your behavior has become.

Why Is this Useful for Us?

For scientists that are trying to research, study and measure how habits are formed, then this method of obtaining results is one of the best models they have. 

For us, well...I think our attention can be better served elsewhere.

Sure, you could use the questionnaire as an "interesting" experiment to see how effective your recent 4 weeks of habit formation experiment has been...

But don't read too much into the results.  

Instead of focusing on measuring your habit, focus on setting up your habit system, paying close attention to your willpower, and getting those reps in.  

Just keep on keeping on and your habit will form sooner or later.

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