The Power Of Habit By Charles Duhigg

Happy New Year! Yes, another year full of hope, ambition, and determination…not forgetting New Year Resolutions. Some structured and well written down, others as vague ideas in our minds of dreams we hope to realize. The underlying factor to their success or failure is our habits and Duhigg helps us unravel this aspect in a captivating and unforgettable manner.

First off is understanding what habits really are. To explain this, he summarizes every habit into a ‘Habit Loop’. These are the 3 stages that are critical in forming a habit, good or bad: A cue, a routine and a reward. A simple example is feeling stressed (cue), smoking (routine) and feeling relaxed (reward). Understanding these 3 aspects is key to understanding why we do what we do and changing or enforcing them. This leads me to my next point: The Golden Rule of Habit Change: You cannot extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it. Duhigg put forth that in order to change a habit, only the routine needs to change. To do this, however, we first need to understand our cues, which means asking questions like ‘why do I feel bored?’, ‘why do I crave this?’ and ‘how else can I satisfy this?’. From the previous smoking example, one can decide to go swimming or hang out with friends to get the same reward (relaxation/stress relief).

Another element in the habit-making process is realizing that we have what Duhigg calls Keystone Habits, which when focused on effect other areas of our lives. To be fit for example, exercising alone ends up affecting our eating habits, sleeping patterns and so on. Concentrating on such a habit, therefore, gives better results, both individually and corporately. Cultivating such habits however requires immense willpower, but once tamed, it becomes automatic and increases one’s productivity. One key to strengthening willpower is undertaking difficult tasks that cause us to experience delayed gratification, like hitting the gym. The second is mentally preparing for worst-case scenarios and planning a routine to get around them in order to achieve our goals.

Finally, the belief that something can truly change is the wheel that keeps the habit going. Having people that believe in and with you is even better. So why not join a book club this year…or go hiking with friends! Remember: The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do!

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