“Your habits are what you choose them to be.”
In his thought-provoking book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg delves into the research surrounding habit formation and change, looking at neurology, psychology, and sociology to uncover the key components of habits and how we can harness that knowledge to affect change in our lives.
Duhigg notes that all habits consist of a loop: a cue, a routine, and a reward. If you can identify those components, you can change the routine (the habit you’re trying to break) more easily. The idea is, you can only really break a habit by replacing it with a new habit.
Of course, that’s not always as simple as it sounds. I really appreciated the end of the book, where Duhigg gives practical suggestions for how exactly to change habits. He suggests the following framework:
- Identify the routine – the behavior you want to change
- Experiment with rewards (the reward of the habit may not be what you first think)
- Isolate the cue
- Have a plan
The details to each of those points were incredibly helpful, and have started me thinking about some bad habits (like nail biting) that I have tried over and over again to change, but to no avail. Now that I know these principles, I feel like I might have a fighting chance of breaking the habit.
I also think the book has good applications for parenting. Like all children, mine have some bad habits (out of respect for them I won’t go into details) that I’ve been trying in vain to break them of, but reading this book helped me to think about the problems in different ways. For example, I’m trying to pay attention to what sort of situations cue the behavior, and what sort of reward the child gets for it. Is it an internal or external reward? How can I help him or her get that reward with a different behavior?
The Power of Habit ties in quite well with another book I recently reviewed, Willpower, and I think reading them together would be tremendously helpful if you’re interested in the topic of habit formation or have some bad habits you’d like to break.
Have you ever successfully broken a habit? If so, how did you do it?
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