The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg Part 1
Great book, this coupled with the other book I just read called Willpower has seriously made look at my habits and actions and reevaluate how I do what I do.
Researchers began examining images of Lisa’s brain, they saw something remarkable: One set of neurological patterns—her old habits—had been overridden by new patterns. They could still see the neural activity of her old behaviors, but those impulses were crowded out by new urges. As Lisa’s habits changed, so had her brain.
By focusing on one pattern—what is known as a “keystone habit”—Lisa had taught herself how to reprogram the other routines in her life, as well.
“All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits,” William James
The choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits. And though each habit means relatively little on its own, over time, the meals we order, what we say to our kids each night, whether we save or spend, how often we exercise, and the way we organize our thoughts and work routines have enormous impacts on our health, productivity, financial security, and happiness. One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.
In some sense, he said, a community was a giant collection of habits occurring among thousands of people that, depending on how they’re influenced, could result in violence or peace. In addition to removing the food vendors, he had launched dozens of different experiments in Kufa to influence residents’ habits. There hadn’t been a riot since he arrived. (The military changed community habits by removing food stands, and the violence stopped.)
Why does my brain decide that one memory is more important than another?” (This is a very interesting statement)
As each rat learned how to navigate the maze, its mental activity decreased. As the route became more and more automatic, each rat started thinking less and less. The basal ganglia, in other words, stored habits even while the rest of the brain went to sleep.
This process—in which the brain converts a sequence of actions into an automatic routine—is known as “chunking,” and it’s at the root of how habits form.1.18 There are dozens—if not hundreds—of behavioral chunks that we rely on every day. Some are simple: You automatically put toothpaste on your toothbrush before sticking it in your mouth. (Think driving to work via the same route, your brain turns off once it becomes habit.)
Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often.
This process within our brains is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future:
Habits aren’t destiny, habits can be ignored, changed, or replaced. But the reason the discovery of the habit loop is so important is that it reveals a basic truth: When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.
Habits never really disappear. They’re encoded into the structures of our brain, and that’s a huge advantage for us, because it would be awful if we had to relearn how to drive after every vacation. The problem is that your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits, and so if you have a bad one, it’s always lurking there, waiting for the right cues and rewards.” (old habits are dormant but there.)
Without habit loops, our brains would shut down, overwhelmed by the minutiae of daily life.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
Habits are powerful, but delicate. They can emerge outside our consciousness, or can be deliberately designed. They often occur without our permission, but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts. They shape our lives far more than we realize—they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.
Claude Hopkins - My Life in Advertising . He created a craving. And that craving, it turns out, is what makes cues and rewards work. That craving is what powers the habit loop. Throughout his career, one of Claude Hopkins’s signature tactics was to find simple triggers to convince consumers to use his products every day.
The brilliance of these appeals was that they relied upon a cue—tooth film—that was universal and impossible to ignore. Telling someone to run their tongue across their teeth, it turned out, was likely to cause them to run their tongue across their teeth. And when they did, they were likely to feel a film. Hopkins had found a cue that was simple, had existed for ages, and was so easy to trigger that an advertisement could cause people to comply automatically.
First, find a simple and obvious cue. Second, clearly define the rewards.
Even today, Hopkins’s rules are a staple of marketing textbooks and the foundation of millions of ad campaigns.
However, it turns out that Hopkins’s two rules aren’t enough. There’s also a third rule that must be satisfied to create a habit—a rule so subtle that Hopkins himself relied on it without knowing it existed.
However, once a monkey had developed a habit—once its brain anticipated the reward—the distractions held no allure. The animal would sit there, watching the monitor and pressing the lever, over and over again, regardless of the offer of food or the opportunity to go outside. The anticipation and sense of craving was so overwhelming that the monkeys stayed glued to their screens, the same way a gambler will play slots long after he’s lost his winnings. This explains why habits are so powerful: They create neurological cravings.
“There is nothing programmed into our brains that makes us see a box of doughnuts and automatically want a sugary treat,” Schultz told me. “But once our brain learns that a doughnut box contains yummy sugar and other carbohydrates, it will start anticipating the sugar high. Our brains will push us toward the box. Then, if we don’t eat the doughnut, we’ll feel disappointed.”
This is how new habits are created: by putting together a cue, a routine, and a reward, and then cultivating a craving that drives the loop.
However, these cravings don’t have complete authority over us. As the next chapter explains, there are mechanisms that can help us ignore the temptations. But to overpower the habit, we must recognize which craving is driving the behavior.
Anyone can use this basic formula to create habits of her or his own. Want to exercise more? Choose a cue, such as going to the gym as soon as you wake up, and a reward, such as a smoothie after each workout. Then think about that smoothie, or about the endorphin rush you’ll feel. Allow yourself to anticipate the reward. Eventually, that craving will make it easier to push through the gym doors every day.
Want to craft a new eating habit? When researchers affiliated with the National Weight Control Registry—a project involving more than six thousand people who have lost more than thirty pounds—looked at the habits of successful dieters, they found that 78 percent of them ate breakfast every morning, a meal cued by a time of day. But most of the successful dieters also envisioned a specific reward for sticking with their diet—a bikini they wanted to wear or the sense of pride they felt when they stepped on the scale each day—something they chose carefully and really wanted. They focused on the craving for that reward when temptations arose, cultivated the craving into a mild obsession. And their cravings for that reward, researchers found, crowded out the temptation to drop the diet. The craving drove the habit loop.
“Champions don’t do extraordinary things,” Dungy would explain. “They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.”
So rather than creating new habits, Dungy was going to change players’ old ones. And the secret to changing old habits was using what was already inside players’ heads. Habits are a three-step loop—the cue, the routine, and the reward—but Dungy only wanted to attack the middle step, the routine. He knew from experience that it was easier to convince someone to adopt a new behavior if there was something familiar at the beginning and end.
His coaching strategy embodied an axiom, a Golden Rule of habit change that study after study has shown is among the most powerful tools for creating change. Dungy recognized that you can never truly extinguish bad habits. Rather, to change a habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine. That’s the rule: If you use the same cue, and provide the same reward, you can shift the routine and change the habit. Almost any behavior can be transformed if the cue and reward stay the same. The Golden Rule has influenced treatments for alcoholism, obesity, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and hundreds of other destructive behaviors, and understanding it can help anyone change their own habits.
Today, habit reversal therapy is used to treat verbal and physical tics, depression, smoking, gambling problems, anxiety, bedwetting, procrastination, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and other behavioral problems. And its techniques lay bare one of the fundamental principles of habits: Often, we don’t really understand the cravings driving our behaviors until we look for them.
How do habits change? There is, unfortunately, no specific set of steps guaranteed to work for every person. We know that a habit cannot be eradicated—it must, instead, be replaced. And we know that habits are most malleable when the Golden Rule of habit change is applied: If we keep the same cue and the same reward, a new routine can be inserted.
The evidence is clear: If you want to change a habit, you must find an alternative routine, and your odds of success go up dramatically when you commit to changing as part of a group. Belief is essential, and it grows out of a communal experience, even if that community is only as large as two people.
These are “keystone habits,” and they can influence how people work, eat, play, live, spend, and communicate. Keystone habits start a process that, over time, transforms everything. Keystone habits say that success doesn’t depend on getting every single thing right, but instead relies on identifying a few key priorities and fashioning them into powerful levers.
The habits that matter most are the ones that, when they start to shift, dislodge and remake other patterns.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
“We all are learning, modifying, or destroying ideas all the time. Rapid destruction of your ideas when the time is right is one of the most valuable qualities you can acquire. You must force yourself to consider arguments on the other side.
— Charles T. Munger”
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