Over the past year or so I’ve set out to discover as much as I can about “habits” – how they work, and how we can change them to improve our lives. Three books in particular have been incredibly helpful in this regard: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, and Your Brain at Work by David Rock. And so here are just a couple key insights I’ve gathered from these books, and others:
1. Habits are Powerful
After you make your habits, your habits make you. Intentions are great, vision is vital, but without the discipline of daily habits, we are not going to get very far. As Mike Murdock says, “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.”
2. Habits CAN be Changed
The good news is that we have the capacity and the ability to change, alter and shift our habits. We need not be prisoners to our old ways, or held captive by ingrained patterns. It may not always be easy to change, but it is totally possible, and perhaps not as hard as we might think.
3. Small Adjustments Go a Long Way
Often when we think of all the things we want to change we get overwhelmed, run in ten directions at once, and change nothing. However, according to research it’s the small changes that have the biggest impact. (For instance, making your bed has been proven to make you more productive in the day). So stop trying to change all your habits at once and choose something small and specific and start there.
4. Habits are Not Only Individual
Groups, communities, families, companies, and even nations have corporate habits. They lie at the soul of our culture and are often taken for granted, but, if you can change a societal habit, you can change the world!
5. Habits Follow a Pattern
Every habit follows the same basic pattern: The CUE, the REWARD, and the ROUTINE. By simply understanding this pattern and identifying the cue and the reward, we are able to replace the old routine with a new one, with staggering results.
6. Habits Keep You Going
Motivation may get you started, but habits keep you going.
7. Keystone Habits Make All the Difference
According to Duhigg, research shows we all have a few “trigger habits” or “keystone habits” – singular habits which, when we do them, transform all other areas of our lives. Keystone habits set off a chain of internal events, giving us willpower and momentum to do other things. Over time, these keystone habits form other positive habits, and we become completely different people. So whether it is deciding to get up early every morning, or to walk every day, find and implement your keystone habit, and watch it set off a slow avalanche of change.
8. Community is Essential
According to Dr Duhigg “habits only change when we believe change is possible”. And this belief happens best in community. When we hear other’s stories, and witness others overcoming similar challenges, it strengthens our hope, which in turn strengthens our ability to change.