The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is a great book to help understand the inner workings of our minds and how we create and figure out habits.
We all have habits that we wish we could adopt and get rid of. Some want the power to be able to consistently go to the gym. Others want to understand why they need to drink. Habits are like lightsabers. Point it the wrong way and bam! There goes your arm. Point it the right way and now you can defend the galaxy. Or least yourself.
The Power of Habit basically breaks down the habitual process into a 4 part system called The Habit Loop
- The Cue
- This is what triggers a habitual process. This could be something as simple as making a cup of coffee because its the morning or needing a snack whenever you’re watching something on t.v.
- It could even be something that’s marketed onto you. McDonalds uses this approach by standardizing the appearance of all their restaurants. You see the usual colors and the golden arches and suddenly you have a craving for some fries.
- A cue came be something that can be trained into you as well. If you’ve ever worked…well anywhere, you were probably trained to respond to a certain cue. A bell dinging could mean a customer entered the store or a co-worker needs assistance or that the burgers are done. Depending on the situation you were trained to respond to the signal and perform the duty required.
- The Routine
- This is what the habit consists of. The drinking if the coffee, the snacking of the snacks. These come out of repetition and practice. A routine is really a ritual of certain activities set to fulfill a certain need or want.
- Following our McDonald’s example, your usual routine when you saw the McDonald’s restaurant would be to go it, wait in line, order your fries and receive them. When you heard the bell ring and see a customer enter the store your usual routine might be welcoming them and asking them how you can help them. Tasks like these are engraved into our minds and become habitual.
- The Reward
- The reward is the outcome you want the routine to achieve. The reward doesn’t have to be ensured, it may just be a desired reward.
- The reward for you morning coffee is the burst energy you want from the caffeine. The reward you want from that order of fries is the salty, crunchy flavor of the fries. The reward you want from greeting customers is a sale. A reward can come in many forms, but what they all have in common is that the reward is the desired outcome of a habit.
- The Craving
- The final component of the Habit Loop is the craving. This is the need that sets off a habit. This can be the need for energy, money, happiness, relief, ect
- How a craving is fulfilled can vary. This can lead you towards a good habit or a bad habit. Lets say you have a craving for some sugar or something sweet. There’s a couple ways you can satisfy this craving. You could grab something that’s sweet but also healthy like a piece of fruit or you could get yourself a candy bar. The final reward is the same ,but the long term effects of going for fruit vs candy are very different.
Habits can lead you down very different paths. Most people associate habits as negative, as something that needs to be removed. Charles Duhigg argues differently. Habits are not in charge, you are. As illustrated above habits can be altered. Once you realize what you are really craving from a negative habit and become aware of it, it’s completely possible to make the necessary changes.
Remember this process, consistently ask yourself what you are craving and chasing, and start using the true power of habits. Or the force.
Read Charles Duhiggs The Power of Habit for more.