Charles Duhigg’s book The Power Of Habits has been a great read. I highly recommend it for learning about how people behave and how to change it. Below are some of my takeaways from the book:
- Understand the “golden circle.” What is the cue that signals the routine (or behavior), and what is the reward you get? Studying your own cues, routines, and rewards are very enlightening. If you’re trying to change a habit, start here.
- Don’t try and eliminate a bad habit. Try and change the routine. If you always snack in the evening, instead of stopping, eat something healthier. Or limit how much of that thing you eat. Going cold turkey probably won’t work out in the long run.
- Do you believe you can change? If you cannot envision yourself changing, you probably won’t. This is the “growth” mindset many talk of. You need to try and imagine yourself accomplishing whatever it is you’re trying to do, and use that as a reminder.
- Try and find a keystone habit. This is sort of like a habit that begets other habits. So, instead of trying to lose weight, get in shape, and eat more vegetables, you might start by simply recording your weight every day. Or writing down what eat each day. A small habit. But, as the author points out, these small habits might make you start being more mindful of what you eat. Or more conscious to take the stairs or walk more. Try and focus on 1 small habit that has a domino effect on others.
- Have a plan. You won’t always stick to your habits. What’s your plan if you fail? Will you get back on track or be derailed for a week?
- Changing habits takes time, and failure is likely. See it as an experiment. Try different routines and rewards and see what works. Remind yourself what you should be doing and engineer the environment to your advantage. Some things that will help:
- What is the location where your cue always crops up? At work? At home?
- Is it always at a certain time of the day?
- What is your emotional state when it happens? Bored? Stressed? Hungry?
- Do other people trigger this behavior?
- Are there any actions that immediately precede the habit?
Looking at that list can clue you in on why you’re doing what you’re doing, and help you change the routine. This is a broad overview of the book, but try some of these at home. You’ll be surprised by what you find.