Who’s in Charge – You, or Your Habits?

Every now and then I read a book so good that the very second I finish it all I want to do is flip back to page one and start all over again.

The Power of Habit:Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg is one of those books.

power of habit

Why do you do the things you do? Habit.

I requested a review copy over the holidays when I was working too much, drinking too much, eating too much, not exercising enough, not tickling my kids enough, not snuggling my husband enough, not writing enough… Well, you get the point. New year’s resolutions were going to hurt. And I was hoping The Power of Habit would save me from myself.

I got so buried that it’s taken me until just now to read this amazing book. Luckily it was so good that I read the whole thing in just 3 days!

It’s just after 5pm and I bet you’re exhausted from all the decisions you’ve made today. Everything from what to wear, what to eat, how fast to drive, what to do first when you got to work, what to do next, how to do it, what to drink with dinner…

Wait, what? You didn’t make all those decisions?

You’re right. You didn’t.

Your habits did.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business dives deep into the habits that we all form to get us through our days. Can you imagine if you actually HAD to make all of those choices, all of those decisions, every single day.

Every moment we are faced with a seemingly endless array of options. The cereal aisle alone has the power to completely shut down my brain. If it wasn’t for my ingrained habits (Gloss over everything with the word fruity or chocolate in the title. Skip anything with marshmallows, cute characters, or other aspects designed to appeal to my kids. Look for the familiar, pre-approved cereal boxes…) I could spend hours – days even – just walking up and down that aisle, at a complete loss, reading ingredient lists, nutrition information and weighing overblown health claims.

cereal aisle

You have .5 seconds to choose your cereal - quick - GO!

Our brains develop habits to save us from ourselves.

Without our habits we’d be paralyzed by all the decisions we have to make.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that most of us formed our habits before we knew what we wanted to be when we grew up. We formed them before we even knew what habits were. We formed them without ever thinking about how they could affect us later in life. We formed them without thinking, planning, preparing.

And now, we’re all paying the consequences.

Admit it – you have bad habits. I know I do. I forget to eat, and then… I get really, um, not nice. My family says “raging bitch” is the PC term for what I become when I’m not fed.

I tend to overbook myself. I have a habit of saying yes whenever someone asks me to do anything for them.

Yes

Anything, anytime, anywhere.

Some people eat too much, some people drink too much, or smoke, or over exercise, or under exercise, or waste time on facebook, or…

We all have things we do habitually that we’d like to change, right?

Charles takes us deep into our own psyches, exploring individual success stories, companies and programs to see why they work. Why does AA work so well for so many addicts? What does it have that other programs are lacking? What about individuals who have completely turned their lives around, going from overweight couch potatoes with insane debt and a smoking problem to fit, healthy, and wealthy? How did they do it? Is it really just a matter of will power?

Is that it, do I just need the will power to Just Say No to my friends, colleagues, and family when they ask me for favors?

Not according to Charles Duhigg. His theory is at once simpler and more difficult. Ultimately though, it’s also more hopeful. I read his book, and I believed. I believed that with the tools he gave me, with the examples he presented, I COULD change. If I wanted to. Will power be damned.

First, Charles laid out how my habits got formed. How all our habits got formed.

It’s a cycle – that has to be repeated over and over until it becomes ingrained — until it becomes habit.

The cycle can be broken down to – trigger, action/routine, reward.

For me the trigger is someone asking me if I can do something for them. My routine is to say yes. The reward – their happiness and thanks.

The problem? I say yes too much. I get overbooked. I get stressed and snappy. I can’t do a good job on anything because I have too much on my plate. Sometimes I become completely paralyzed by my to-do list and I can’t do anything at all.

I freeze. I panic. I lash out. It’s no bueno.

The solution – rewire the habit.

I’m not going to tell you how. That’s not my job. It’s Charles’ and he does it so well that I don’t want to risk giving it away and making you miss your chance to read this mind-bending, soul expanding, brain exploding book. Yeah, it’s all that and an unbroken New Year’s Resolution to boot.

So, if you want to know the trick, the key, the way and the path to changing your bad habits, or simply to forming new good habits – pick up a copy of Charles Duhigg’s book – The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. I’m buying copies (plural) for my friends and family. If I still had a boss I would get a copy for him/her too. There’s a whole section on corporate/business habits that every business owner should read.

I hate this cliche, but this book really is a game changer.

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3 Comments

Filed under Books, Marketing

3 responses to “Who’s in Charge – You, or Your Habits?

  1. thinkbannedthoughts

    Oh man, this is the problem with blogging while watching dinner get cooked – you ramble on and on and forget to mention the really important things – like keystone habits. Yeah, keystone habits. Those are the ones that if you can change them, everything else changes too. For the better, or the worse…
    Pay attention to your keystone habits. In business, in relationships, in life.
    Don’t know what I’m talking about? Buy the book already. Jeeze. I gave you the link, what more do you need?

  2. Pingback: Reflections and Aspirations | ThinkBannedThoughts Blog

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