How to Change Your Habit – The Power of Habit
28 February 2018
You probably have no idea how your habit started or how you can stop it. The Power of Habit will tell you not only how it started, but also how to change your habit.
The Power of Habit blew me away. And I know I’m not the only one. So many people recommended this book years before I decided to buy it. Boy, I wish I would have read it a lot earlier in my life since there are so many takeaways you’ll learn about how to change your habit. You’ll definitely want to hear them, and I’m going to give them to you in this post.
First, let’s start with what you all probably want to know, and that is the four steps which will help you to change an unwanted habit.
Change Your Habit Step 1: Identify the Routine
Each one of you has a routine you do every day. In fact, you probably have several routines which could be as simple as brushing your teeth and taking a shower right after you wake up (I hope you do that routine regardless). This is what researchers define as a habit, and it’s the first step in realizing how you are going to change your habit if you want to.
The author uses an example of going to get a cookie every day during a break time (routine) or very close to the end of the day at work. Why is this a bad habit? Well, the author said it made him gain quite a bit of weight in a relatively short amount of time according to his wife.
The next question you’ll probably want to ask yourself is (using the cookie example still):
- ‘What’s the cue or cause of wanting to eat a cookie every day during a break or close to the end of the day?’
- ‘What kind of reward do I get from eating the cookie?’
- ‘Is it the cookie itself, or maybe the socializing with coworkers at the canteen?’
In order to figure that out, you must do a little experimenting with rewards.
Change Your Habit Step 2: Experiment With Rewards
Adjust your routine so it delivers a different reward (reward). This is the biggest key you need in order to change your habit especially if it’s a habit which might harm your body or mind such as smoking or your weight gain.
The suggestion from the book is to try a few different rewards day after day while recording the time, location, action (reward) and the feeling you receive after finishing.
By experimenting with different rewards you can actually pinpoint what it is you’re actually craving which in turn will make it much easier to change your habit.
However, not all habits are easy to break so that’s where determination plays a big role. Don’t forget to take notes after each session that way later you can go back to look at the notes.
The author discovered it was actually his need for social interaction that drove his desire to go to the canteen and munch on a cookie, not the cookie itself.
Change Your Habit Step 3: Isolate the Cue
A cue is the thing that happens right before your habitual routine starts. On your way home it might be the bent tree which signifies to turn right. In the author’s case, it was his need for temporary distraction from work by socializing which cued his habit to go buy a cookie.
Identifying categories of behaviors ahead of time to scrutinize in order to see patterns is the key to finding the cue to your habit.
- emotional state
- other people around you
- immediately preceding action
Once you go through a few rounds of taking notes of these things you should be able to figure out what your cue is.
Change Your Habit Step 4: Have a Plan
When I see CUE, I will do ROUTINE in order to get a REWARD. You should write out a plan and set an alarm every day as a reminder to change your habit routine. The CUE and REWARD should stay approximately the same. That’s important to remember.
In the case of the author, he wrote down ‘At 3:30, every day, I will walk to a friend’s desk and talk for 10 minutes.’ He set his alarm and made sure he stuck to his plan. If no one was around, he would go take a walk, or go to the canteen and get a healthy snack, like an apple, while chatting with his coworkers.
Changing some other habits may be much more difficult but by actually figuring out what triggers your routine and what the reward is you have now gained the power to change your habit for the better.
Things That Make The Power of Habit Stand Out
This book wasn’t just like reading some boring nonfiction book. What made this nonfiction book unique from others is Charles Duhigg’s ability to tell a story. I can remember on two occasions, one actually shedding a tear from the heart-jerking story, and another where I cringed at the grotesque description.
This is the power of storytelling at its best.
The illustrations are simple yet effective. It’s nice to have some visual print in a book, no matter how simple.
There’s more than just one reason why you might want to change your habit. A Keystone Habit is a habit that will start a chain reaction of other good habits. For some people, as shown in the book, Keystone Habits have changed their entire life.
If the four steps of changing your habit and learning about Keystone Habits were the only two things you took away from this book, it’s worth the time it takes to read the whole book.
Parts of the Book Which Help You to Understand How to Change Your Habit.
Part I: The first section focuses on how habits emerge within individual lives.
The first part of the books helps you to understand what the author calls the ‘habit loop’. This is the essential part of understanding how you create habits.
Duhigg, the author, does a great job of putting these scientific and psychological facts into an easily understandable format of stories. If it weren’t for the stories The Power of Habit would be extremely boring for most people.
In the first part of the book, you’ll understand the ‘habit loop’ through stories from people such as a man named Eugene, who lost almost all of his memory in an accident, Claude C. Hopkins, who helped Pepsodent, and so many other household products become part of our daily habits (now I know the tingling feeling and foam when brushing my teeth actually don’t make my teeth any cleaner. It’s part of the ‘reward’), users of Fabreze, Tony Dungy, head coach of The Buccaneers in the late 1990’s, and Alcoholics Anonymous.
Each story has meaning and ties in with the next part of the book.
Part II: The second part focuses on the habits of successful companies and organizations.
Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win. They fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.
How do companies use habits to become successful?
Before 1987, Alcoa was known as a company with one of the highest rates of injury in the US, until they hired a new CEO named Paul O’Neil. O’Neil believed in the power of ‘Keystone Habits’ and by focusing on the safety of his workers it would influence ‘ALL’ other areas of work such as productivity, communication, and sense of unity as a company.
He was right. Just by implementing ‘safety’ protocols it created a snowball effect which improved all other areas of Alcoa. It even sparked up new ideas from workers lower on the totem pole as well.
Ways to Create a Keystone Habit in a Company to Encourage Positive Change:
- Small wins are incremental progress points on your way to your main goal.
- Create a structure to help form all your other habits.
- Create company cultures where new values become ingrained.
(Each link goes to a specific article about the specific topic of the parts of Keystone Habits)
Part III: The third part looks at habits of societies.
I really loved reading this section of the book partly because it relates heavily to marketing and a way to get your content or product to go viral. By understanding the three keys to start a social habit or movement you’ll be far ahead of your competitors who may not have read this review or the book.
The three keys are:
- A movement starts because of the social habits of friendship and strong ties between close acquaintances.
- It grows because of the habits of a community, and the weak ties that hold neighborhoods or groups together.
- And it endures because a movement’s leaders give participants new habits that create a fresh sense of identity and feeling of ownership.
Now here I highly recommend reading The Tipping Point which I reviewed because there’s a major part of that book which discusses what Gladwell calls ‘connectors’. If you understand the power of weak ties (great article) and ‘connectors’ put together it can be a very powerful set of marketing tools.
The Power of Habit uses the story of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. as the way of explaining strong and weak ties. I felt like it was the best story Duhigg could have picked. It worked out perfectly.
When the strong ties of friendship and weak ties of peer pressure merge, they create incredible momentum. That’s when widespread social change can begin.
Final Thoughts on How You Can Change Your Habit
The Power of Habit is probably the most profound nonfiction book I’ve read in the last year. It is a book perfectly filled with the ‘right’ stories to match the message. I believe Duhigg carefully put his heart, soul, and belief into this book.
Do you have the power to change your habit?
According to this book you do.
“Once we choose who we want to be, people grow to the way in which they have been exercised, just as a sheet of paper or a coat, once creased or folded, tends to fall forever afterward into the same identical folds. If you believe you can change-if you make it a habit-the change becomes real.”
It’s been great having you here today and I’m happy you made it all the way to the end of the review. I’d greatly appreciate your support in my cause of spreading the importance of gaining knowledge through reading by sharing this review with your friends.
You can also make this world a better place by reading this book for yourself. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. By growing your intelligence, you’re making this world a better place, one person at a time. Spread this message and you will be helping to make an impact.
Learn how to control and change your habit for the better.
Always remember to share what you’ve learned with the people you care most about.