Menu Close

Why do bad habits feel good?

A bad habit can be hard to break, as we see it as the easier option, despite knowing there are no long-term benefits.

bad habits

People often attack problems regarding productivity, customer service, communication, workflow changes, and culture with logical structures and processes. This assumes people are logical. Typically, they put in a review process or introduce a new workflow process, policy, or script.

The biology is clear, known by marketers, and forgotten by the rest of us: emotion (how you feel), not logic, drives decision-making and behaviour. A core driver of emotion is consistency; how much does this situation or routine match what we have seen or done before? The more something matches our established model of the world, the more ‘normal’ it feels.

It’s how we interact, and what we actually do, that matters—not what the operations manual says. It’s our habits that drive behaviour and culture. Habits ‘feel right’ or ‘easier’ even if we know them to be unhelpful.

Imagine yourself arriving at a business function. You scan the room and spot one person that you know. What do you do? You go straight to that person and connect with them in preference of everyone else at the event, even if you have only met them once or twice before, even if there are other more important people to meet. Why? Because it is safer and easier.

The same is true for neurons. For your brain, firing the neural networks you already have is easier, safer and more reliable than establishing different ones. The brain is around 2 per cent of body weight and draws almost 25 per cent of the energy consumption. In the context of evolution, saving energy here matters.

It is simply easier to do what you have always done, even if the habit is unproductive or even self-destructive. Just knowing what you ‘should do’ is not the same as being able to do it in the moment, when it matters. I might ‘know’ that a workflow or habit is not helpful, but that doesn’t change the extensive neural network that makes repeating the habit easy and somehow feel like the ‘correct’ and only option I have.

The full article can be downloaded below…

Leave a Reply