The Power of Habit
By: Charles Duihigg
This book is a powerful insight into neurology. The author’s main focuses are on what habits are, how they are formed, and how they can be changed. Reading this book has greatly influenced my own understanding of my mind and what I can do to better control it.
So what are habits? Habits are cycles ingrained into our prefrontal cortex that control repetitive activities. Do you really think about brushing your teeth every morning, or do you just do it? What about driving to work? You might be surprised to learn that most of the driving we do everyday is semi unconscious. You’ve probably taken the same route to and from work so much that it is now a habit. The first part of this book defines the habit loop. The habit loop is as follows: Cue-Routine-Reward. Knowing that small loop can help change your life. The golden rule of habit change is this, cues and rewards are the hardest to change, so focus on the routine.
Example: (cue) Boredom – (routine) eat something – (reward) not bored
Change that to: (cue) Boredom – (routine) read something – (reward) not bored
Habits can and do exist within corporations and businesses as well. As a business leader, you should always be on the lookout for bad habits, and nip them in the bud before they form. You should also be on the lookout as a consumer. I was surprised to learn that companies have algorithms to determine which of their customers are pregnant, and they are surprisingly accurate. So why would a company want to determine who is pregnant? Because pregnant women are gold mines in retail. If a woman forms the habit of shopping at a particular store, say Target, while pregnant, they are much more likely to continue shopping there in the future, simply out of habit. Start paying attention to all the baby item commercials, coupons, and ads… you’ll see what I mean. I’m aware that this seems like a gross invasion of privacy, don’t shoot the messenger.
The last part of the book goes into the habits of societies and free-will. Cultures form habits the same way people do, and they can influence our own personal behaviors. In the last chapter, the author discusses the argument of free-will. He uses legal battles as examples. The first, an elderly man was acquitted after he strangled his wife while sleep walking. The second, a woman was held responsible for her gambling losses, despite her defense that she wasn’t able to control her actions due to a gambling addition. The reason why the justice system did not hold the man responsible was because he was not aware of his sleep walking habit, and had no control over his actions. The woman on the other hand was aware of her bad habit, and did not take the appropriate steps to change or control it.
Habits are an everyday part of life, its just how are brains evolved to work. Knowing and understanding can help you change your bad habits (smoking, drinking, gambling) into good ones (going for a walk, drinking a glass of water in the morning, reading when bored). The last thing the book points out is that even knowing, it’s still extremely difficult. You need to believe in order to truly change a bad habit for good.