The Power of Habit

Why We do What We do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg

Scientific research into habits has given us explanations as to why habits exist and how they can be changed. The book, The Power of Habit, has many interesting stories that exhibit these new-found discoveries on habits. Stories include how Tony Dungy transformed the Tampa Bay Bucs into a championship team after years of failing to make the playoffs. Also, included are some fascinating stories about the Civil Rights Movement in the US. Another story that resonated with me was how the US was able to prevent violent protest in the Middle East by understanding people’s habits.

The book’s overarching premise is that habits start from a CUE that causes a person to begin a ROUTINE that results in some form of REWARD. An appropriate example would be a person’s smoking habit. The person feels stress (CUE) and then begins the ROUTINE: takes out a cigarette, walks outside, lights the cigarette, then takes long, slow, deep breaths of the smoke. The person is rewarded, in part, with decreased anxiety and stress levels.

For us to change a bad habit, Mr. Duhigg suggests that we first determine what the REWARD is that we are subconsciously seeking. Then implement a new ROUTINE when the CUE occurs. The new ROUTINE should provide a similar REWARD. The author warns that reverting to the old habit (on occasion) is normal and not to be considered failure but rather learning. You may need a stronger REWARD or an adjustment to the ROUTINE.

Let’s make all our habits productive ones!