The Power of Habit


I've always loved reading. There is no better way to travel to a faraway place, to be a fly-on-the-wall in a family drama, to live someone else's life, and learn new things. All by simply getting lost in a book or listening to an audiobook. 

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is one I've listened to repeatedly.

The author's narrative is excellent: facts and science weaved into stories and case studies that are impactful and memorable. He begins with the science of habit creation in our brains. From there he goes on to narrate stories of individuals and organisations that became aware of certain unhelpful habits and consciously sought to change them. There are so many eye-opening examples of how a powerful keystone habit is necessary to set in place a domino effect of other positive habits.

First you must become aware of the cue that leads to the routine you embark on often without thinking, and the reward you receive at the end of it.  The routine is the habit.  Perhaps the habit is causing you certain side effects that you're unhappy about, and you want to change it.  Understanding what triggers you and the outcome you're hoping to achieve will help replace the "bad" habit with a new "better" one.

For example, you may find you comfort eat when you're stressed or anxious. Eating chocolate or biscuits makes you feel better temporarily before the calories and guilt kick in to make you feel even worse. So rather than beating yourself up about it (which makes things infinitely worse), work on ways to recognise the emotional trigger and understand that you are looking for something that will make you feel better, and possibly more energised.  Now find an alternative routine that will deliver the outcome you want.  Drinking water is one such replacement, or getting some fresh air, or talking to a friend who calms you down.  Old unhealthy habits don't die, they simply go away to sulk somewhere while you replace them with more wholesome ones. The can resurface at anytime.  It's good to be aware of that too.

It's clear that we go through life not being aware of most of our habitual behaviours. Awareness is the first step to creating change. Reading this book might help you with the tools you need to put those changes in place.