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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • This instant classic explores how we can change our lives by changing our habits. “With the days of pulling all-nighters and eating pizza at 2 a.m. (hopefully) behind your new grad, there’s no time like the present to get into a good routine.”—Real Simple NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Wall Street Journal • Financial Times In The Power of Habit, award-winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to the sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives. With a new Afterword by the author “Sharp, provocative, and useful.”—Jim Collins “Few [books] become essential manuals for business and living. The Power of Habit is an exception. Charles Duhigg not only explains how habits are formed but how to kick bad ones and hang on to the good.”—Financial Times “A flat-out great read.”—David Allen, bestselling author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity “You’ll never look at yourself, your organization, or your world quite the same way.”—Daniel H. Pink, bestselling author of Drive and A Whole New Mind
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It has been estimated that more than 40 percent of the actions you perform every day are the result of your habits rather than deliberate decisions you’re making. With that in mind, it makes sense to get to understand how habits form and work. It’s all due to the operation of the “Habit Loop” – you see a cue and you therefore follow a routine to get the reward you crave. To build new habits or change old ones, keep the cue and the reward the same and look for ways to swap out old routines for new and improved routines.
What is a habit? Technically, it can be defined as the situation where you make a deliberate decision at some point to do something and then stop thinking about your choice as you continue to follow the same routine over and over. With habits, what you do becomes automatic rather than requiring you to decide what to do each time.
Researchers at MIT started studying habits in earnest in the 1990s and since that time have been able to show the section of the brain which is involved in habit formation is known as the basal ganglia. If you visualize the brain as an onion, the outer layers (near the scalp) are the most recent additions from an evolutionary perspective. These outer layers handle creative thinking and social interactions. The basal ganglia is one of the innermost layers and is roughly the size of a golf ball in the center of the skull.
“Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often. This effort-saving instinct is a huge advantage. An efficient brain requires less room, which makes for a smaller head, which makes childbirth easier and therefore causes fewer infant and mother deaths. An efficient brain also allows us to stop thinking constantly about basic behaviors, such as walking and choosing what to eat, so we can devote mental energy to inventing spears, irrigation systems, and, eventually, airplanes and video games. But conserving mental effort is tricky, because if our brains power down at the wrong moment, we might fail to notice something important, such as a predator hiding in the bushes or a speeding car as we pull onto the street. So our basal ganglia have devised a clever system to determine when to let habits take over. It’s something that happens whenever a chunk of behavior starts or ends." — Charles Duhigg
The Habit Loop lies at the heart of every habit which you will ever form. It can be broken down into three basic and essential components:
1. Cue – there is something which tells your brain it’s safe to go into automatic mode rather than having to think intensively about every choice you face. Cues can be external or internal:
The time of day.
The company of certain other people.
Your current emotional state.
A trigger action which happens externally.
2. Routine – what you do automatically whenever the habit is triggered. Routines are patterns of behavior and can be physical, mental or emotional. The brain expends a lot of energy at the beginning of a habit loop looking for a cue which signals which routine to use but then once you start on a routine, the brain shuts down and rests because your actions are predetermined and automatic.
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