In the introduction of this book it is said that we are creatures of habit, in that many of our daily activities end up being a matter of routine rather than direct deliberation. In his book Duhigg argues that habits pervade not only our personal lives, but that they have an integral role to play in the business and other organizations of which we are a part, and that they are also at the heart of social movement and societies at large. I have no doubt he is right. Why? Just look at your whole day in a retroactive way; when you woke up, when you had breakfast, you went out with friends and had a discussion! Let us stick to the last one. What was that discussion about? Is it sports, politics, gossips? What you talk about and how you judge the issues is the habit you have built up together. Your perspective on things, even if sometimes you may not realize that, it is an indirect result of your own habits, good ones or bad ones.
I will develop this issue into three main questions:
What is the importance of a habit? This is the key question to this topic. A habit is something we do regularly without consciously thinking much about it. Habits make everyday life possible- for good or bad. It is worth mentioning that habits are often projected negatively, such as a drug habit. But there can also be good habits as well, like exercising regularly.
Eugene Pauly nearly died from viral encephalitis. The infection caused too much brain damage that he was unable to retain new memories. He did not recognize most of his family members and could not remember anywhere he had been. But, his wife discovered, he learned how to find his way home. Eugene Pauly, as a subject for research, challenges standard ideas about how the brain works. He could develop a habit with no conscious awareness or memory of learning it. Duhigg begins “The power of habit” with this very story. According to this short story we can easily understand the impact of habits in our life. Can you just imagine the condition Eugene was? How much important was for him to be able to find his way home by himself? Seemingly it was just a habit caused by routine action; the way back home. But later it becomes so meaningful. The problem with habits is that they become so ingrained that we do not realize we have them. Try to think about your habits! You do not find it that easy, right? How important can be something that controls your life invisibly? You succeed or you fail, it not just a coincidence! Something led you to that, and that something is called habit.
How to choose and train a right habit? Definitely, it is not easy to respond or to find a solution to this second part. That is because it is more or less up to you. Therefore I am trying to point out three more common steps we must follow in order to be aware on how to choose and train a right habit. Firstly, choose something simple- this step is really highly recommended because we cannot be successful or satisfied with our achievements if we force ourselves into something we do not like or we are not good at.
Start simply, doing what you want and what makes you feel comfortable. Small changes are easier to start with. Do not ever expect others to accept or like it, honestly this is not necessary, not in this case. Let me reason you, the point is that you practice your habit even if you have no company. Your habit belongs to you. Secondly, pick a habit that fits your lifestyle- instead of forcing something that does not fits your circumstances, look at your lifestyle and see where you have the most space for something new. You better start from something that matches with situation and possibilities you have. The third and very important thing is to work with your strengths. So, know your values and stick to them. Once you have carefully acknowledged your strengths and weaknesses you will be better at managing healthy habits, and working with your strengths is something that can direct you successfully to a happier life. By that, I am not supposing that you will have a higher professional position, or that you will earn more money. Instead, you will be the owner of something much more important, the owner of your habits.
How habits can help you grow personally and professionally? Logically, you want to know what you benefit from changing, keeping or giving up your present habits. By identifying what you want to achieve you can build up good habits and work on in what you want most. Habits are powerful. If your brain is more likely to memorize the information in the mornings rather than in the evenings, you better wake up early! Sometimes it does not matter how fast you are going, what matters the most is where you are going. We are used to check both sides of the street before crossing the road (even if it is one way road), we are used to go to bad in the same time, and we are used to manipulate technology by memorizing things unconsciously. There is a chain effect in how we act, therefore if we are lazy and anxious in our personal life, we can not expect to change for better in professional field. We are not able to break this chain; we just have to be sure we control it.
At least, if you are reading this and I’m writing this, it is happening because of our habits on reading and writing. As Duhigg says “we are creatures of habits, so let us be good creatures”.