Why do you do what you do? You have probably randomly stopped to ponder this question. In his book 'The Power Of Habit,' Charles Duhigg takes one viewpoint to answering this question. You go through your day via habits: After waking up, you brush your teeth without thinking and you stop at the same coffee shop for your morning cup every morning. If, for any reason, you are not able to perform your habit that morning, your whole day seems off. This book, discusses not only the power of such daily habits have over you but, more importantly, how you can take control and use the power of habits to your benefit.
Habits are indeed powerful. Not only are you affected by the habits you as an individual have created for yourself but you are also strongly influenced by the habits of the organizations and societies you associate with.
As an individual your brain is trained to follow something called the habit loop. The first step of a habit loop is a cue, a trigger that causes your brain to engage its' autopilot to steer you through your habit. The prompted routine (the second step) can be physical, mental or emotional. The last step of the loop is the reward. With time and/or practice this loop becomes more and more automatic. The cue and the reward become intertwined creating a powerful sense of anticipation and craving. Eventually a habit is born.
It is easy to imagine that certain habits are good and healthy while some others are less desirable. For example, sometimes boredom could be a cue to start drinking alcoholic beverages as time might seem to pass quicker (reward) while being a little tipsy. Or, the feeling of tiredness in the afternoon in your office might act as a cue for you to walk to the cafeteria to have a cookie or a bag of chips. In the latter case, you might be gaining weight which makes the habit undesirable for you at that moment.
Once you have a basic understanding of the cue-routine-reward cycle, you can start using it to your advantage by modifying any undesired habits you might currently have. As the book explains, the first step is to decide which habit you would like to modify. The second step is to gain awareness of what your cue, routine, and reward for that specific habit is. Once you are aware of your cue, you can consciously experiment with different more desirable routines and observe if any of them brings you a similar reward or satisfaction. The more often the new chosen routine is repeated, the more automated the process becomes and a new habit is formed.
The book discusses the process of modifying the habits of individuals, organizations and societies. The process in all three cases is very similar to the case of an individual discussed in the previous paragraph. The real-life examples are intriguing reading, while the practical approach provides a direct action plan to tackle any undesired habits you might have.
It seems that you might start reading the book out of curiosity: 'Why do we do what we do in life and business?'. You definitely finish, however, with 'Let me decide now what I really want to do in life and business as now I know the steps on how to form the habits that allow me to be my best'.
The book is a powerful tool to awaken your awareness of what habits are and how to use them to your advantage. Although the practical approach outlines a clear action plan to obtain your goals, it seems the reader is left to go through the process unsupported. For many this process could benefit from an unconditional support from a great friend, discussion group or a life coach.
Katianna Pihakari, the founder of Simply Dynamic Coaching, is an inspiring coach specializing in helping business executives and entrepreneurs in achieving their optimal performance under high stress environments. Contact Simply Dynamic Coaching today to discuss how your unique situation could be simplified and improved.
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