I was a mess when I picked up The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Pulitzer-prize winning author Charles Duhigg. My day was constantly in flux depending on my various freelance projects. I had little discipline or healthy regiments to speak of, and I craved habits and consistency.
I was relieved when I read that habits work in 3-step loops: cue, routine, reward. It was broken down nicely with plenty of backed-up research and case studies.
There’s an example of applying the habit loop to working out in the mornings. You can leave the shoes next to your bed (cue), set out to take 100 steps outside (routine), then reward yourself with chocolate. This will set up the memory of enjoying the workout until the new routine becomes a habit and the reward is the runner’s high you get from exercising. Now that’s a workout plan I can get behind.
Keystone habits prepare the foundation of major habit change through small wins and by creating structures so that other habits can flourish. For example, making your bed in the morning sets the tone for a structured day, and approximately 40% of what we do happens on autopilot.
New habits will help you exercise your discipline. Willpower is a learnable skill, and you can strengthen over time with three things: the cue, the routine, and the reward, once you identify them. One girl in the case studies had a severe nail biting problem, and they resolved it by making her notice her cues. Eventually, she traded nail biting with rubbing her hands together. The cues stayed, but the behavior changed.
It’s probably no surprise that community can influence your goals, even if it’s only two people. So whether it’s a running club, a Fitbit group, or a neighbor with the same goals – support can go a long way in creating new permanent behaviors.
The author notes that there is a fine line between habits and addictions (ex. technology, wine) but habits can be changed by removing cues that trigger the routine or by replacing the bad routine with a good one.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business was very well received, spending 120 weeks on the various New York Times bestseller lists since 2012. I highly recommend you read this book to change a habit or implement new habits.
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