How to Hack the Habit Loop [VIDEO]

by Brett on June 22, 2013 · 40 Comments

in A Man's Life, Personal Development, Visual Guides


In this week’s video we take a look at how you can change your habits by hacking the habit loop. If you’re looking for more info on changing your habits, pick up the book that inspired the original post and the video: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

What bad habit do you want to transform into a good one?

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 William Peregoy June 22, 2013 at 4:06 am

Interesting stuff. 45% of college students behavior was done out of habit?

That’s crazy. It’s shocking… but at the same time not shocking. I guess it’s just something we don’t think about.

I know what habit I need to cut back on – the “social media loop” I do whenever I turn on the computer. No matter what I initially opened the computer for, it’s turned into: check Facebook, check Email, check Twitter, check reddit….. it’s a bad loop to get stuck in. And it always takes longer than I expect it to.

2 rev mosese June 22, 2013 at 4:53 am

Really great video. Will share that with some other men. Just one thought: Why not go for some more manly or vintage music for the background? This melody reminds me more of music on hold…

3 TR June 22, 2013 at 7:25 am

Teriffic vid. I kick habits by way of asking myself if I were eating spaghetti as often doing “certain action,” would that be too much spaghetti?
I feel like my life is a bad habit if I’m doing anything other than making art, music, or love to my lady 24/7.
I’m curious what you think about addiction. Rather than organic disease, I’d say something such as alcoholism falls under the lifestyle or mental disease category, but then again so would listening to country music.

4 Cs.Olivér June 22, 2013 at 7:34 am

Good video, make me want to kill my bad habit…. If I had one..

5 Tom June 22, 2013 at 10:00 am

If the habit is one of avoiding pain rather than seeking reward, how does the process of “hacking” the habit loop change?

6 Tim June 22, 2013 at 11:46 am

Into it!

I particularly like ‘wrestling bears’ on your list and your copy of The Iliad. (I have the same edition!)

7 Stratford Spackman June 22, 2013 at 12:12 pm

This video is marvelous and I appreciate your blog very much. In our world today the male sex is being attacked at every angle it seems. I’m pleased to see that your idea of masculinity is of a gentleman who overcomes the animalistic qualities of males and has self control, virtues, and class.
The topic in the video is critical because in order to master ourselves, we must set goals and break habits. The issue I found while watching the video was this- what if your reward is a destructive one? Also, what if the reward is unique and there is no other routine to receive it? Say that your habit is getting dangerously drunk on weekends. There is no other way to really get drunk accept through drugs. The routine seems fairly unique, and the reward seems to bring you no real lasting value. How do you deal with a destructive habit like this?
Again thank you for what you do, as a teenager I can say that you have influenced my growing into a man at least in a small part, which means a great deal.
J. Stratford Spackman

8 Matt June 22, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Good video. I read the book a while back but this makes me want to go back and re-read it. This site is an amazing resource.

9 Dan June 22, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Makes a lot of sense. I constantly lose focus while studying and end up browsing the internet. In fact I’m doing it right now, haha. I’ll give a walk a try next time I feel the itch.

10 Alberto June 22, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Very good video, thanks Brett! I found your post on habits very useful on reading it some time ago, and this video is an excellent summary of that. With God’s help, objectivity and TAM I hope to get rid of my bad habits.

I’d just like to add that, though in my opinion the video is very well done, the background music was a little annoying. I like your videos best when there’s just the Art of Manliness “theme” music in the beginning and later none at all.

Thanks and God bless you!

11 josh June 22, 2013 at 8:53 pm

a child who crawls and is learning how to walk doesn’t think he has a bad habit. he merely finds a better way to get around and leaves crawling behind. habits are a statement of the past, and the past is gone.

12 Ariel June 22, 2013 at 9:12 pm

A great video! Thanks for the teaching.

13 Max June 23, 2013 at 4:10 am

How do you avoid the siesta after lunch at work? …How do you work around it?!

14 brooks June 23, 2013 at 8:55 am

Excellent! At the end, It looked as though you wanted to instead say “this is Brett McKay telling you *salute* to stay… classy San Diego”.

15 Cody June 23, 2013 at 9:47 am

Great video, Brett. Changing our habits is one of the most powerful things we can do to help become who we really want to be.

16 Phillip June 23, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Terrific that there are only two rules to mind.

17 Jonny June 23, 2013 at 7:17 pm

@Stratford Spackman: I guess with that kind of example, you just work on identifying the Cue, Routine and Reward. Eg, do you get dangerously drunk because of the friends you hang out with? when you have a fight with your girlfriend? or a bad week at work?

Then figure out the reward: Is it respect from your peers? to handle stress?

Figure those out, and you can start finding healthier ways of getting the reward you’re looking for.

18 Vincent June 24, 2013 at 2:11 am

None shall take my porn and video games away!
On the other hand i could dil down on the nachos and sodas! Awesome video! Keep them coming ;)

19 John B. June 24, 2013 at 8:35 am

Awesome video (and website) Brett, Just found this website by accident but I am now a follower for sure. This is a very detail video and great rundown on beating the bad habits. I used similar tactics to decrease my diablo 3 play time and increase my workout time. Great video, thank you for putting this together, you have won me over!

20 alex June 24, 2013 at 9:53 am

That background music is relaxingly chipper. Nothing brightens my day quite like a xylophone melody.

21 Mike June 24, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Hi Brett,
How do you make such an awesome video like this? What hardware and software are you using?

22 Steve June 24, 2013 at 3:51 pm

As always, AOM delivers the goods!

Currently trying to break a midnight snacking habit…I seem to have spent the last year or two waking up after a few hours sleep and grabbing a bowl of cereal, eating it, then going back to sleep…this isn’t good at all, pilling in food and going back to sleep with no real method of burning the calories I’ve just consumed.

23 Jonathan June 24, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Good stuff here. I work with drug addicts in a prison setting and this is certainly stuff we talk about. The only thing I would suggest is if the habit is truly something you want to change, some focus e on the “cue” might need to come first. For example if going out at 10pm is a habit and leads to going to strip clubs. Then avoid the cue all together by not leaving the house. If your wife nagging at you is a cue, then having a respectful conversation about your feelings and needs could help remove that ‘cue’ from existing. Some bad habits can be changed by changing the ‘cue’. Aside from that, finding the healthy routine that allows for similar reward is exactly what I talk to men about on a daily basis.

24 Ray June 25, 2013 at 5:25 am

Excellent job on the video. I’ve had a pleasure of reading Duhigg’s book a year or so ago and you did a great job of summing it up. I’m looking forward to more videos!

25 Lee June 25, 2013 at 6:17 am

Thanks for the vid and book suggestion. Will definitely go check it out on amazon.

26 Tim Robertson June 25, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Simple truth for battling the soul-stealers.

27 dai June 25, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I just developed a habit to visit AOM everyday. Time to get to work.

28 Jacob June 25, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Loved the video. This looks like a really good way to add time to you day as well. I’ve often regretted not having time in my day to practice some life betterment activities. In reality, I probably could have done some of them if I hadn’t been preoccupied with some of my bad habits.

29 Eric June 25, 2013 at 11:35 pm

Smoking… And to have better financial habits.

30 Brett McKay June 26, 2013 at 1:13 pm


I shoot the footage, and send then it over to Jordan Crowder who edits it. I’m not sure what kind of software or hardware he uses. The camera I use is Canon Rebel T3i with a 22mm lens which helps give it a nice look. But Jordan takes care of the editing magic.

31 Matt June 26, 2013 at 9:00 pm

I’m really enjoying the videos on the site! As a university student who has to read a lot for study purposes, it is refreshing to get my manliness fix in video form :)

32 Steve June 26, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Great video with some very doable approaches to changing a habit. I plan on putting the loop into practice.

33 M. Kelley June 27, 2013 at 8:20 pm

Nachos. Orgasms. Distraction.

The trinity.

34 M. Kelley June 27, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Fantastic video, BTW

35 Ed June 29, 2013 at 8:41 am

Excellent video! Not just the topic, but the flow, camera work, and editing are fantastic as well. This isn’t a comment on the tools you use. People don’t compliment the chef’s knives after a great meal… It’s talent, knowledge, and hard work that produces a great result. Bravo.

36 Tim June 29, 2013 at 11:11 pm

That was AWESOME. I’m now a fan of your site because of this extremely insightful, funny, powerful video. Keep up the good work!

37 Anderson June 29, 2013 at 11:40 pm

Reddit was the best decision for this video

38 C.W. July 1, 2013 at 9:25 am

Thanks Brett.

39 Shane July 5, 2013 at 1:34 am

Great video, and such an awesome mustache…

40 Chris March 3, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Very straight forward and useful advice. I will definitely be using this idea.

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