The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg
Do you ever find yourself making lists of all the things you’re going to change, only to find yourself re-writing the same list a few months later? If that sounds like you, I feel your pain, and know how it feels. This book could be your answer.
When I read the power of habit for the first time, I had not idea that it would be such a life changer. And it wasn’t because I absorbed it immediately and changed my habits, in fact, it was quite the opposite.
I enjoyed reading the book, the stories were great and I felt good about what I read. BUT, I didn’t change anything.
A few months later I listened to it again and finally thing began to click.
I was fed up with making lists of resolutions and not trusting myself to make them happen.
We think we’re making choices – but we’re all on Auto Pilot
The MAIN take away for me was the story about the guy who suffered from severe memory loss. He couldn’t remember anything for more than 30 seconds or so, and all his memories from the last 20+ years or so were gone. BUT, he remembered his routines. He’d wake up every morning and roll into the kitchen to make bacon and eggs, then pull up in front of the TV and watch shows. He’d fall asleep, then do the same thing when he woke up again. That’s a lot of bacon and eggs! Too much in fact, he ended up dying of a hard attack.
Why was this impactful to me? It started to sink into my thick skull that something that is difficult for some people, can become completely effortless. For example, I go to church each week, and for some it might be hard to dedicate a whole morning to getting ready, getting the kids ready, then sitting through church services for a couple hours. It’s not hard for me. It’s all I’ve known, and done since I was young. It takes ZERO power.
Does that mean that we can reprogram our bodies to do our bidding? Why yes, it surely does…
This simple insight helped me realize that if I stuck to something long enough that I could program my body to do the bidding of the super motivated self that I have deep inside my head. In the past, the guy in the command center hasn’t had a very tight leash over my body, but this realization helped me change that.
So, that’s it right? Wrong!
The fact that we can program ourselves like robots is only half the equation.
The other half, is that it takes willpower to affect any change in our lives. Okay – what does that mean?
We only have so much willpower – we need to use it wisely
In another article I wrote an analogy about will power coins – a magical currency that I created to tell my 7 friends that I’d cornered at a social function about habits. You can read more about it here, but let me give you the gist of it. You start off every day with 10 coins – for FREE! You earned them from the sleep ferry. Then any time during the day you have to do something hard, you have to pay out some of those coins. Even dealing with a bad boss can steal away some of your will power coinage – so you gotta be careful.
Creating new habits takes will power, and in turn will dwindle your supply of the coinage that can’t be bought. You have to spend it wisely, and when you’re out, you’re out for the day. I hear that power naps give you about a coin, but my wife would strongly disagree. You’ll have to try it for yourself.
So do you understand why creating a long list of New Years resolutions at the beginning of the year is a recipe for disaster? Okay, maybe I’m being dramatic, but really, if we tried to make our major Costco trip for the year on January 1 we may not be able to afford everything we want all at once. You only have 10 coins silly. You have to shop accordingly, and many times our day to day life uses up a vast majority of our coins as it is.
You can’t start every new habit at once. You need to determine how much you have to spend then make a prioritized list of what is most important. You can’t change every habit at once.
Alright, so what about the power of habit? Okay, here’s the skinny on what he covers in 10+ hours of audio. I’ll cover the gist of it in 145 seconds…
The Habit Loop – Craving, quench that craving, feel satisfied or guilty…
Mr. Duhigg explains that every habit is part of a habit loop. Cue, Routine, Reward. So, in my case I start to feel the itch that my phone has something to tell me… Dang, I got the itch. That’s the CUE.
The Routine is for me to pick up my phone and check E*TRADE, Instagram notifications, or YouTube studio. (I deleted email from my phone for this very reason!)
The Reward is that I now know, just like I did 20 minutes before that all is well in the world, and nothing important happened. I then feel guilt about how I’m a performance coach and shouldn’t be looking at my phone so much.
So as I write, I’m planning how I can replace that routine…
The Golden Rule of Habit Change
Yeah, so I fell off the wagon again yesterday and checked my phone 86 times, give or take 50.
The golden rule of habit change says that if you can replace your routine, leaving your Cue and Reward in place, then you’re good to go!
For my phone addiction, I’m going to find a small notebook that has a phone drawn on the top, and whenever I want to check for updates I’m going to take a note in my book with the thought I had, and what I should check when my scheduled distraction time has come. I’m thinking I’ll have two times a day where I can distract myself with that kind of thing.
Have you ever woken up early and felt, “Man! Why don’t I do this every day!” Or maybe a better example is how things seem to go better in life when you have a regular exercise routine?
Keystone habits are special routines in our lives that seem to make other parts of our life go better. In my opinion, I consider these habits my Keystone Habits:
- Waking up early
- Daily Exercise
- Weekly Planning
- Daily Scripture Study
- Taking Sunday off from all work activities
There are some parts of your life that when you’re doing them, everything else goes better, those are your keystone habits.
If this piques your interest on habits and you’d like to learn more, I’d recommend reading Charles Duhigg’s book, it’s amazing!