Turns out our habits are destroying us and there is nothing we can do about it. Almost everything we do is set in motion when we wake up in the morning. That’s when habits, ingrained in our core, take over and make almost every decision we are faced with. We are complex beasts, but habits have boiled us down to just a bunch of drone. In short, our habits have rendered us helpless, made us unhealthy and predictable, and we are at their mercy.
Of course, things aren’t that bad, but our habits are far more powerful than we can ever imagine. Habits are so deep-seated in our brains we are making far fewer choices than it would seem; they’ve already been made by our habits. Whether it’s Tony Robbins, Seth Godin, or any other leader at the top of their field, they rarely miss an opportunity to make habits part of the conversation when it comes to explaining their success. So it wasn’t a surprise to see that someone was able to construct an entire book around the subject. But, what was a surprise was how engaging and entertaining it was to read about habits, case studies surrounding the subject, and educational anecdotes to helped reveal the true power of habits.
The author, Charles Duhigg, begins by introducing a recurring character, Eugene. Eugene is an elderly man from Southern California who fell ill with a disease known as H.M. H.M. is a memory disorder and Duhigg used Eugene’s case as an incredible example that helps explain the nature of memory. Basically, Eugene was incapable of retaining new memories. He was a real-life Memento story. But somehow, Eugene was able to eventually learn tasks like going on walks and finding his way home or remembering a series of objects or numbers in a certain order. Turns out, it had nothing to do with his memory and everything to do with his habits.
See, Eugene went on a walk with his wife every day for months. One day Eugene grew impatient and left for the walk without her. Naturally, his wife was in a panic when she walked downstairs because he has no idea where he is, where he’s going, or why. In fact, if you asked Eugene where he was going or how to get back home, he would tell you he has no idea, but since he had developed the habit of taking the same route every day, his brain just made the decision for him and who pops in the door 30 minutes after leaving for a walk, Eugene, and he was perplexed when he found his wife in tears.
Cue -> Routine -> Reward
Duhigg then introduces the Habit Loop. It’s an oversimplified snapshot to assist in understanding the chain of events that takes place in every habit. These are just a couple examples, but the Habit Loop can be used to describe any habit.
A single habit is initiated with a cue (i.e. seeing your sneakers in the morning or your phone vibrating). Then it is followed by the routine (going for a run or checking the message) in order to receive the reward (quench your thirst for an endorphin release or give in to the craving for distraction on your phone). Think about brushing your teeth, when you pass the secretaries candy jar at work, or you begin scrolling through Facebook. Each habit started with a cue that promised a reward, as long as you followed the routine.
Finding Value in Habits
He talks about some of the greatest breakthroughs in advertising. For example, when it was launched Febreze was an amazing product, but no one was buying it. It wasn’t until they showed consumers how rewarding the floral smell was after cleaning a room. This innovative product was introduced as a reward to after the routine of cleaning. The room smells fresh and that meant a job well done.
Inversely, Pepsodent was a product with no real attributes distinguishing itself from the competition. Not to mention, when it was developed, the early 1900s, “brushing your teeth” wasn’t necessarily a “thing.” But the brain behind Pepsodent’s marketing campaign went on a mission to make brushing your teeth a habit. He made the acts of waking up in the morning and going to bed at night a cue to take care of dental hygiene. The reward was a clean feeling mouth. It may not be Pepsodent, but do we even give a second thought to brushing our teeth? Nope, and it’s because of this revolution in building habits.
Rethinking what you thought you knew
The book is filled with tons of great case studies about the power of habits. One woman is suing Harrah’s because of her gambling habit. Sounds crazy, but when you compare it to the man who killed his wife in his sleep because of a sleepwalking disorder, you’ll find that the way our brains respond to cues isn’t all that different from a gambling habit.
This is not a guide to transforming your life and it’s not filled with lifehacks on how to replace your terrible habits with great ones. Instead, it’s a well thought out explanation of what habits are. The author reverse engineers why habits are so powerful in our lives and the impulses that set a series of actions in motions that cannot be stopped.
Habits are why you are carrying 15-20 extra pounds. Habits are why your blog only as 9 subscribers an
d create a post every 2-3 weeks. Habits are why you are aimlessly thumbing through the phone for hours a day. Habits are what got you ready to run a marathon for the first time. Habits are what helped you made meditation part of your day. I left the Power of Habit feeling convicted and reassured at the same time. I
I left the Power of Habit feeling convicted and reassured at the same time. I am ashamed of all the poor habits I’ve developed over time and all the productivity I lose because of them. I’ve also seen incredible results in faith and fitness when new habits are developed. Instead of fighting off the bad habits, replace them. Acknowledge our brain’s desire for the reward, but change the routine you use to get there.
Buy the book. Read it. You’ll breeze through it and love it. The image below is hyperlinked directly to it…and LOOK, it’s less thatn 10 bucks right now!