the power of habit

The Power of Habit summary

This book is a guide for those who are conscious regarding their habits and struggle with their habits, cravings and willpower. The author has also mentioned ways to create and change a particular habit is icing on the cake.

Habits work in 3-step loops: cue, response, reward.

The root of all habits lies in a 3-step loop:
Cues are combinations of stimuli. These repetitive cues triggers long term changes in the brain’s structure. So this repetition and coordination becomes independent of conscious decision making.

Responses are the chain of thoughts that brain begins to expect and crave for rewards as soon as cue arises.

Rewards are the pleasant/ unpleasant emotions that these cravings begin to drive responses that deliver the reward.

Change your habits by REPLACING just one part of the loop: The routine.

Duhigg calls this -“The Golden Rule“. Naturally, the more often you reinforce a habit, the more it gets embedded in your brain. The golden rule of habit change says that-” to change a habit, it is important to keep the cue and the reward the same, while inserting a new routine into the habit loop.”

Charles Duhigg used an example of Bill Wilson, a recovering alcoholic to illustrate his argument. His newfound faith in Christ led him to create Alcoholics Anonymous.

Your most important habit is willpower, and you can strengthen it over time in 3 ways.

Duhigg also explained the significance of “willpower” in creating a habit. Duhigg says willpower is by far one of the most significant habits, as it helps us do better in all spheres of life. While quoting an example of coffee the author says that you’ll probably get grumpy if you can’t have it on a particular day. Therefore switching the routine with everything else in motion can trick your mind to adapt to the new one.

Here are 3 uncommon ways in which you can grow your willpower capacity over time:
1. Maintain discipline, because persistently delaying gratification will boost your willpower.
2. Plan in advance to deal with worst scenarios.
3. Preserve your autonomy because tasks assigned by someone else, will exhaust your willpower muscle much quicker.

How to create a Habit

1. Identify the desired response.
Firstly, focus on one task at a time because new habits need willpower and willpower is limited. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Secondly, plan/prepare in advance to make the new response easy to complete.
2. Select a cue.
Choose one or more of the following to establish as a cue for your response:
– Location: Somewhere unique that supports this habit.
– Timing: A regular time each day / week brings consistency.
– Emotional state: Is the emotional factor behind this new habit excitement? Anger? or Anxiety?
– Other people: Who will trigger the new habit? a spouse? a colleague? a friend?
– Directly preceding sensation, thought or action: What series of steps will trigger this response? Is it another habit?
Finally, visualize the cue and plan out your response to it in your head.

3. Design some carrots.
-Treat yourself with rewards that makes you feel happy.
-Establish support networks to keep yourself motivated.
-Visualize your desired outcome and remind yourself of it often.
-Write a clear visualization of your end goal, print a photo, save a video etc.
-Track progress and celebrate small wins to create a positive cycle of belief.
4. Set up some sticks.
-Commit yourself to your new resolution on paper because those who write down resolutions are 10 times more likely to complete them.
-Track streaks of completed responses as the threat of breaking a long streak is a powerful motivator.
Make a public commitment to those whose opinion matters but won’t judge you if you fail.
5. Practice your new habit cycle every day for 30 days.
-The structural changes that underlie habits are triggered only by perpetual consistency.

How to change a Habit

Changing a habit is not about hitting bull’s eye. Every individual’s response and behavior differs in dealing with changing/ acquiring a habit.
1. Choose the existing response that you want to change.
For instance, web browsing, smoking, waking up late, nail-biting, stuttering etc.
2. Experiment with rewards.
-Rewards are often obvious in retrospect but difficult to uncover.
-Don’t put yourself under pressure to change in this period.
-Adjust your responses to test different rewards and determine the craving that is driving your routine.
– To create momentary awareness jot down first three emotions on your mind.
-Set a timer for 15 minutes. Give the response and reward time to take effect.
-Review your notes and ask yourself if you still feel the same urge.
If no: you have found the reward that satisfies your craving.
If yes: the reward is something else, try again.

3. Isolate the cue.
Like rewards, cues are often obvious in retrospect.
-Each time you feel the craving, make a quick note of:
– Where you are
– What time it is
– How you feel
– Who else is around
– What you’ve just been doing or thinking about

4(a) Eliminate the cue.
-Many cues are directly within our control.
-The quickest way to stop a response is to simply eliminate the cue.
-Eliminating cues is powerful because it requires no willpower.
4(b) Design an alternative response that delivers the same reward
– If some cues are not possible/ practical to eliminate then adopt major external changes for instance starting a new school, getting married, moving home, changing job etc.

Thus, all you require to change a habit or adapt a new one is willpower, dire perseverance and consistency. You just have to align your three loops viz cues, response and rewards and everything will fall into order.

So, what’s the new habit that you’re going to welcome?

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