One of my favorite books that I read in 2016 was Charles Duhigg’s ‘The Power of Habit’. This is a terrific read on the science behind our habits, why they exist, and most importantly, how bad habits can be changed. We’re all creatures of habit and Duhigg helps explain why that is and successful practices used to change that. ‘The Power of Habit’ is a masterful read on self-help and proper ways to go about forming “good” habits in life and business.
Habits work in 3-step loops: cue, routine, reward. In ‘The Power of Habit’ Duhigg revealed that at the source of all habits, like your morning drive to work, lies a simple 3-part loop. The cue initiates the habit: you leave for work at 7:30am each morning. The routine is your habitual behavior: you leave for work at 7:30am and take the exact same route to each morning. Finally is your reward: you arrive at work on time to start your day. Your brain’s activity only spikes twice during this loop. At the beginning, to figure out which habit to engage in, and at the end, when the link between cue and routine is supported. The stronger the connection between cue and routine, the stronger a habit is, e.g. the harder a habit is to change.
How do you break a bad habit?
We just discussed how habits work, but how do you break a habit? You must break one of the three steps in the loop; cue, routine or reward. The trick to changing a habit then, is to switch the routine, and leave everything else unharmed. Duhigg calls this the golden rule. Not all habits are created equal and Duhigg says willpower is by far one of the most important, as it helps us do better in all aspects of life. Luckily willpower is a learnable skill, something that can be taught.
The easiest way to break the habit is to have a plan. Cultivate a plan to disrupt the current habit in some way, so that you can make more conscious decisions about your behaviors. Over time, you can alter your routine and change your habit.
Best quotes from ‘The Power of Habit’
“Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.”
“If you believe you can change – if you make it a habit – the change becomes real.”
“If you want to do something that requires willpower—like going for a run after work—you have to conserve your willpower muscle during the day.”
“Small wins are a steady application of a small advantage.”
“Studies have documented that families who habitually eat dinner together seem to raise children with better homework skills, higher grades, greater emotional control, and more confidence.”
“The Golden Rule of Habit Change: You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.”
My personal power of habit experience
Prior to reading Duhigg’s book I fully understood that we’re all creatures of habit. I know this personally from my own “good” habits on working out. I try and workout during lunch at least 4 days a week. Once you do it enough it becomes a habit and its practically second nature. I then began waking up at 5am to run on the treadmill in my basement. It’s hard at first. I mean, it’s really hard at first to condition yourself to do this. Luckily I am a morning person but it still takes time. But after repetition it again becomes second nature. It became a habit for me.