Neurological feedback loops are the driving factor behind habit creation and addiction/obsession.
The basis of a feedback loop is either a positive or negative reward system that you assign yourself (consciously or unconsciously) for doing a certain task.
A simple example of this being – Effort: Gym – Reward: Food.
Further down the line we can associate this with positive or negative connotations depending on the individual and the myriad of experiences and interconnecting feedback loops they’ve experienced and created.
This translates into the feedback reward of food being either positive of negative. Positive reward could be defined as “healthy” food and negative could be defined as a food high in refined sugar and additives.
This again is dependent on the individual and their knowledge base/perspective on the given reward system.
All feedback loops have an essence of the four metrics stated above – effort, reward, positive and negative. This also goes for addicts as they associate the reward of doing something good or bad with their addiction i.e. the reward for robbing an elderly lady is money to fuel their drug habit.
Before we go any further, I’d like to discuss the basis of unconscious feedback loops that don’t result in a tangible or instant reward. These fall along the lines of going to the gym and attaining a strong, healthy physique. Reading a couple of books that give you an edge in a job interview a couple of months from now.
Essentially, doing the things you dislike doing because the benefit comes from the long-term process which isn’t expedient but is meaningful.
A simple phrase for this would be – Pick the pain you’re willing to suffer.
A common misconception with habit formulation or “breaking a habit” is the notion that you can just do this at will, it just requires some minor suffering on your part. This statement is completely incorrect as we have seen with countless addicts relapsing.
The reason for this being you need something to replace the “bad” habit with, you can’t just leave a void unless you have absolutely unbreakable willpower (fact: most people have none)
Further information on this topic can be found in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
This can stem even further into the realms of spirituality and meta physics in terms of thought control and conscious awareness of habit making and breaking which I would recommend everyone looking into.
To end this post
3 actionable takeaways
1. You are your habits, you can make or break them with the correct effort to reward metrics.
2. Removing a bad habit and replacing it with something of benefit is the only way to successfully overcome the negative action.
3. Cultivating willpower through consistent self-discipline will aid in the journey of habit formation and make it more likely for you to stick to your new habits resulting in a constant flow of neurologically positive feedback.