The Power of Habit

I am currently in the process of reading a book called “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. The book takes you through the many studies that have been done, and still are, to study how our mind works and how habits form.

Habits can be good and bad, but they still work in the same way. At the culprit of the study was the willingness to understand why some people can stick with certain behaviors ( and ultimately – results ), and some others cannot. In the meantime, trying to discover how the mind stores certain information, making certain daily action completely automatic, that we do not even have to consciously think about them.

“All our life is a mass of habits. Most of the choices we make every day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits. And though each habit means little on his own, over time, it has enormous impacts on out health, productivity, financial security and happiness.”

The most important thing that scientists learned is that habits can change…if we understand how they work. “The process in our brains is a three-step loop. First, there is CUE, a trigger that tells your brain to go in automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is ROUTINE, which can be physical or emotional. Finally, there is a REWARD, which helps your brain figure out if this loop is worth remembering for the future. The CUE and REWARD become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges. And that is how a HABIT is born”.

Try to think of all those things that you do automatically every day without thinking. Those are your HABITS. You morning routine to get ready for work, the way you know how to get to work, the way you make your coffee, the way you style your hair, and so forth. There are also other habits that can be harmful for you, like excessive smoking or drinking or eating. These negative habits usually continue because your brain is looking for that feeling that the REWARD provides to your mind and body…it is craving to feel that familiar spark of recognition that is triggered every time you smoke that cigarette, eat that additional ice cream or drink that extra beer.

The good news is that “habits aren’t destiny. They can be ignored, changed or replaced. When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit, unless you find a new routine, the pattern will unfold automatically”. The trick to change any habit that you want to tackle, is to understand how habits are created: once you break habits into its components, you can fiddle with the gears.

Cravings are the power engine of the habit loop. The only way to change or transform a habit, is to address the craving and its source, to ensure that ultimately we get the same reward at the end of the cycle. Luckily, cravings don’t have complete control over us and there are mechanisms that can help us ignore the temptation that is causing that craving in the first place. “To change an old habit, you must address the old craving. You have to keep the same cues and rewards as before, and feed the craving by inserting a new routine.”

“It seems ridiculously simple, but once you’re aware of how your habit works, once you recognize the cues and rewards, you’re half-way to changing it. The truth is, the brain can be reprogrammed, you just have to be deliberate about it”.

There are two additional elements that can help you to successfully change your habits: belief and willpower. It is actually quite self-explanatory: if you believe you can change, and you have the willpower to stick to your plan and the changes you want to make, you will have so many more chances of success. You need to have the belief that things can get better, and you need to have the willpower to keep focusing on your changes, to ensure that they happen. Only this way, a new habit can be created, and you will get the reward that you have craved.

The more I write my posts, all apparently tackling different topics, the more it is becoming clear that all the power is within you and the power of your mind. You are the master of anything and everything that happens to you. It is hard work, but it is rewarding. You just need to put the work, the intention, the consistency, the willpower and above all, the belief that you can change.

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