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How to Harness the Power of Your Habits and Routines

Cynthia Hull

"Every habit abides by a set of rules, and when you understand those codes you gain influence over them. Any habit can be changed." 

- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

 

Throughout the day, every day, we all take actions that we don't consciously think about. Does this ever happen to you? You are sitting at your desk, drinking a cup of coffee, thinking about your day. Suddenly you wonder if you closed the garage door.


You think back to your morning. You realize that you don't remember getting dressed, driving to work, or even pouring yourself a cup of coffee. You devoted your attention to solving a pressing problem. Yet you are at work, dressed appropriately, drinking your coffee. How did that happen? Habits.

 

Your mind performed all the tasks of your morning routine without much conscious thought. Your morning routine is well established. Your mind followed the steps and got you to work.


We all have habits that guide our days. Habits that we purposefully form and habits that we don't even realize we have. Our habits become routines. Our routines form our days.

 

I have been thinking about my habits and routines the last several weeks. My book club recently read the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It was an interesting read which changed my perspective on habits and routines. My favorite quotes from the book:

 

How habits work:

'This process within our brains is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future: THE HABIT LOOP.'

Why you don't remember putting the garage door down:

'When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit, unless you find new routines, the pattern will unfold automatically.'

Why we regularly make poor choices:

'Habits are powerful, but delicate. They can emerge outside our consciousness, or can be deliberately designed. They often occur without our permission, but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts. They shape our lives far more than we realize, they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.'

Willpower can be improved:

'Willpower isn't just a skill. It's a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there's less power left over for other things.

This is how willpower becomes a habit: by choosing a certain behavior ahead of time, and then following that routine when an inflection point arrives.'

Changing a bad habit is possible:

'Change might not be fast and it isn't always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped

The Golden Rule of Habit Change: You can't extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.'

You can choose your habits:

'This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be.'

 

Finally, motivation to change your bad habits:

'There's nothing you can't do if you get the habits right.'

 

 

 

 

 

 


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