We manage to wander through life on automatic pilot. Never really thinking about why we do the things we do. If we did stop to think, we would realise that most of our choices are just habits; automatic actions that have been instilled into our very being throughout our time on this bright blue planet.
“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.” – Charles Duhigg.
Duhigg informs you that habits emerge as the brain is constantly searching for ways to reduce effort. So habits can be a good thing. But good and bad so often arrive with an arm slung around each other, and habits aren’t any different. Habits can also destroy you and cause death.
Duhigg also provides you with the science that shows that habits can never be eliminated. If you want to remove a bad habit from your life, then the only way to do so is to create a more positive habit, and then nourish it to become more powerful than the one that desperately needs taking to the trash.
The book centres on a process Duhigg refers to as The Habit Loop: The Cue – The Routine – The Reward.
To explain I will use an example of my own as I have recently given up drinking tea, which was purely a habit that I had created throughout my life. Please bear in mind that there are numerous cues when it comes to my tea drinking, but here is just one.
My Mum drinks a lot of tea. So when I am around her house she is always asking me if I want a brew. This is a cue for me. The routine is for me to say yes and then drink my tea. The reward is to feel warm and comforted – as well as rehydrated – because I have drunk my tea. I am also feeling sociable for accepting the offer to participate in something with my Mum.
Duhigg believes – as I do – that the way to change a habit is to keep the cues and the rewards but change the routine. So now when I am at my Mum’s and she asks me if I want a cup of tea, I always make sure there is a supply of lemons or herbal teas for me to drink. I have changed the routine and substituted an unhealthy drink for a healthy drink. Most importantly the reward remains the same. I am being sociable with my Mum, and I feel warm and comforted by my new choice of drink. It’s been several months now and I don’t feel the need to drink tea or coffee.
Creating new habits is not easy, but the art of habit creation is very similar to the motion of a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes. The same is true with habit change. The more habits you create, the better you become at it.
Duhigg also covers keystone habits in his books. Momentum begets momentum. Change one habit and you start to see what the possibilities are and then want more. Over time you start to change habit after habit, but soon enough you will change a habit that lifts the eyelids and suddenly you can see the world in a different way. This is known as a keystone habit. For example, giving up drinking was a keystone habit for me. It gave me the belief that I could do anything. A belief I still have to do this day.
But creating everlasting change takes more than just understanding the habit loop. If you want to learn more about the wider context of habit change then why not contact me at Needyhelper@gmail.com to find out more on my habit changing programme I call Lean Life.
In the meantime pick up this book. Like I said, it’s a great read and will help you create new habits, and push your bad habits to the cellar of your mind.
Do you have any suggestions for life changing books? If so please leave me a comment and hopefully I can read and review them.