Everyone Should Read “The Power of Habit”
There are some books that I come across that go into my personal favorites section on my bookshelf. Most of these wouldn’t be that interesting to most people because they are refined and tuned to my particular interests such as magic and self-development.
But then there are some books that explain a part of human life so well that I have to recommend them to all.
The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg is one of those books.
What I knew before I read it is that so much of what we do in life is habitual. Some of those habits are good (brushing your teeth before you go to bed) and some have an unwanted effect (going into the drive through every tome you pass it).
What I didn’t know is that habits are formed by three major components: a cue, a routine, and a reward.
So, see McDonalds arches (cue) -> go into drive through and order nuggets (routine) -> enjoy tasty food (reward).
But the book goes farther than that. The valuable part is that it tells you how to modifythese habit loops. You just change one of the three steps in the loop and the outcome changes.
For the fast food example, I tried changing the cue so that I didn’t even see the arches. This translated into driving home via a different route, one where I didn’t pass a drive through. Obviously it worked because there was no way I could even get the food in that case, but it was a strategy I wouldn’t have necessarily come to naturally. I would’ve probably said “ah, well, maybe I’ll just try to have more will power as I pass by…” which never really worked to break the habit.
Sometimes a habit broke naturally. I used to work in a building with a food court downstairs with all sorts of bad for you food. When 1pm rolled around (cue) I’d head down to one of my favorite restaurants and order something full of oil and carbs (routine) and felt, for a moment, less shitty about my boring life working at a desk (reward).
When I switched jobs in 2013 to become a teacher, the food court cue went away, so the routine did too. Some could argue I broke the habit because I removed the need for the reward. I got a job that I cared about and didn’t need to reward myself with shitty food anymore.
(Shitty food became a reward for feeling over stressed as a teacher but that’s besides the point.)
If you want to reverse engineer a habit, you can, and this book shows you how through many examples. It’s not the first time anyone has written about habits, but it is the most engaging, at least for me.
I recommend reading it. It could change or even save your life.