The Power of Habit. By Charles Duhigg

Some habits, in other words, matter more than others in remaking businesses and lives. 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.

 

  • Example of Keystone Habit: Exercising. Exercise spills over. There’s something about it that makes other good habits easier.

 

  • Small wins are exactly what they sound like, and are part of how keystone habits create widespread changes.

 

  • Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win.

 

  • Key success factor at West Point: they found that all of them mattered less than a factor researchers referred to as “grit” which they defined as the tendency to work “strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress.

 

  • Self-discipline predicted academic performance more robustly than did IQ. Self-discipline also predicted which students would improve their grades over the course of the school year, whereas IQ did not…Self-discipline has a bigger effect on academic performance than does intellectual talent.

 

  • And the best way to strengthen willpower and give students a leg up, studies indicate is to make it into a habit. Sometimes it looks like people with great self-control aren’t working that hard—but that’s because they made it automatic.

 

  • Spillover effect: Willpower in the gym resulted in greater willpower at home.

 

  • Habits—even once they are rooted in our minds—aren’t destiny. We can choose our habits, once we know how. Everything we know about habits, from neurologists studying amnesiacs and organizational experts remaking companies, is that any of them can be changed.

  • Habits, he noted, are what allow us to do a thing with difficulty the first time, but soon do it more and more easily, and finally, with sufficient practice, do it semi-automatically, or with hardly any consciousness at all.

 

  • 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.

 

  • Habits as they are technically defined: the choices that all of us deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about but continue doing, often every day. At one point, we all consciously decided how much to eat and what to focus on when we got to the office, how often to have a drink or when to go for a jog. Then we stopped making a choice, and the behavior became automatic. It’s a natural consequence of our neurology. And by understanding how it happens, you can rebuild those patterns in whichever way you choose.

 

  • When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making.

 

  • First, find a simple and obvious cue. Second, clearly define the rewards.

 

  • If you want to start running each morning, it’s essential that you choose a simple cue (like always lacing up your sneakers before breakfast or leaving your running clothes next to your bed) and a clear reward (such as a midday treat, a sense of accomplishment from recording your miles, or the endorphin rush you get from a jog).

 

  • 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.

 

  • 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.

 

  • 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.

 

  • Next, some less obvious questions: What’s the cue for this routine?

 

  • Is it hunger? Boredom? Low blood sugar? That you need a break before plunging into another task? And what’s the reward? The cookie itself? The change of scenery? The temporary distraction? Socializing with colleagues? Or the burst of energy that comes from that blast of sugar? To figure this out, you’ll need to do a little experimentation.

 

  • Rewards are powerful because they satisfy cravings. But we’re often not conscious of the cravings that drive our behaviors.

 

•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.

Why we do what we do in life and business

Author: Charles Duhigg

371 pages

 

  • All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits. William James

 

  • 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.

 

  • A three-step loop:1. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use.2. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional.3. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future

 

  • THE HABIT LOOPOver time, this loop - cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward - becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges.

 

  • 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.

 

  • Why habits are so powerful: They create neurological cravings. Most of the time, these cravings emerge so gradually that we’re not really aware they exist, so we’re often blind to their influence. But as we associate cues with certain rewards, a subconscious craving emerges in our brains that starts the habit loop spinning.

 

  • Once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom - and the responsibility - to remake them. Once you understand that habits can be rebuilt, the power of habit becomes easier to grasp, and the only option left is to get to work.

 

  • Water is the most apt analogy for how a habit works. Water hollows out for itself a channel, which grows broader and deeper; and, after having ceased to flow, it resumes, when it flows again, the path traced by itself before.

Saving Effort

 

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.