Mark’s #33 – The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (2012)

Most of us recognize that we are largely a product of habits – good or bad.  Over time we develop our habits across a wide range of actions or thoughts – and, in-turn, those habits develop us.

Here’s a quick exercise for you:

  • Think about your best habit.  How did it form?  How does it persist?
  • Now think about your worst habit. How did it form? How does it persist?

It may have taken some work for you to do that exercise, because in doing so, you were actively engaging your brain in the analysis of your habits, which by nature, avoid active cognitive engagement.

This book explores habits – how they’re formed, why they’re formed, and what occurs in our brains in regards to habits, and how habits can change.  Using a multitude of examples from a wide variety of life, this book explores the habits of individuals, corporations, and societies.

As it turns out, our brains love habits – good or bad.  These ‘autopilot’ responses and behaviors allow our brains to focus its energy on other, less familiar activities.   Our brains process a multitude of ‘cues’ throughout each day.  If each ‘cue’ required deliberate thinking (tying our shoes for example) we would be mentally exhausted before lunch.  Think about when you first learned how to drive a car.  The information your brain had to process was almost overwhelming  – hopefully this is no longer the case.

The encouragement to me from reading this book was that though habits are pervasive and life shaping, our habits are not out of our control.  We are not victims of our habits. Rather, with intentional thought and action, our habits can and do change.

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.

So, what habits would you like to change?


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