Habits are truly powerful

A few blogs and a book changed my entire thinking about habits.

The book – The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. The blogs – Zen Habits, In Over Your Head and The Minimalists.

Habits are what we do regularly. But these small actions being so powerful that they change your life? I had never thought in such a way.

A small intro – habits are the evolutionary shortcut mechanism for the brain. We don’t need to actively think when we are performing a habit and thus save valuable thinking energy.

The 4 main points which came out of the book and the blogs were:

  1. Identifying the components of a habit makes it easier to change or start a new one
  2. Fighting willpower each time is difficult
  3. Small actions are essential
  4. Setting 1 habit right helps in setting other habits on track.

Duhigg tells something important. Each habit has 3 aspects – cue, routine and reward.

  • Cue or trigger is what stimulates you to start a routine
  • Routine is what you do to satisfy the urge
  • Reward is what you get in the end for performing the action

To create a new habit, he suggests picking a trigger. Like drinking water immediately on waking up (waking up is the trigger). On the other hand, to change an old habit – find out the trigger, and then change the routine.

The 2nd point is willpower. Just like any other muscle in the body, it too gets exhausted. So why keep challenging it always? Instead see if the environment can be changed accordingly. (An extreme example – reducing TV viewing was no more a challenge for me after it stopped working!)

The 3rd thing is starting with small actions. Oh yes. The most difficult part. At the start of 2013, I had set a few unconventional goals. As September rolls to an end, I look back and see nothing. Perhaps if I had done just 1 small thing daily, it could have added up to something big over the entire year.

The final point is about setting 1 habit on track. Once done, other habits tend to fall in place. Not sure how this happens. Probably like placebo effect, something going right and we think that the world is sunny. 🙂

Before you turn cynical and say – one more post with a lot of fundas which everyone is already aware about, just take a step back. And apply these to just 1 habit. I did that in the last few weeks of changing my sugar intake. And it worked.

P.S. I would HIGHLY recommend The Power of Habit. Especially touching is the section on how Paul O’Neill applies organizational habits to transform Alcoa during his term as CEO.

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