Zia Hassan

Habits Die Very Hard

In the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, the author claims that habits can never be broken but they can be changed. This struck me as odd, because of course you can break a habit. I’ve done it many times.

But as it turns out, any time I’ve broken a habit, I’ve actually just replaced a behavior with another one, whether that was due to a change in environment or in my financial abilities, etc.

Quitting a habit can’t be done. Habit modification comes close enough to be functional, but quitting implies that I could just overcome the habit. And I’ve never done that.

When I went on a social media detox a few months ago, I used an app called Freedom to block all distracting sites, 24 hours a day. The scary part was that even though I knew I couldn’t access these sites, my brain would still try to do it. I’d type in facebook.com into my browser multiple times a day, even though doing so would result in a green block screen. This kept happening throughout the month. You’d think that I would just be able to train my brain to avoid going there, but it turns out that the habit is too strong and too long.

I’ve heard it said that neurons that wire together fire together. Thus, developing so-called willpower is pointless. What we need to do is learn how to re-wire our neurons.