“We first make our habits, then our habits make us.”– John Dryden
In The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg does not give away a secret formula for changing our deeply ingrained habits. Instead, he offers something equally intriguing — a framework for understanding them. He insists that if habits can be changed, we must first understand how they work. To that end, he delivers chapters that are with scientific research and compelling stories, building on a different aspect of why habits exist and how they function in our personal lives, our business, and our larger culture.
Duhigg describes the brain’s habit-forming process as being a three-step loop.
First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain which habit to use. Then there is the routine, the acting out of the habit itself. This routine doesn’t have to be physical; it could be mental or emotional as well. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.
So do you want the good news or the bad news? Let’s rip the band-aid off first.
Unless we figure out how our bad habits work, we can’t undo them. Our brains can’t tell the difference between a good habit and a bad habit. They’re just habits. So if our habit is to eat a chocolate chip cookie every day at 3 pm, it is pretty likely that tomorrow our habit will literally pull us to the bakery.
That’s rather bleak. Now for the good news.
We can make new habits! The brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit. Habit-making is encoded into the structures of our brain. On one level, this is a huge advantage for us: habits allow the brain to perform everyday tasks without conscious thought. Without habit loops, our brains would quickly shut down, overwhelmed by the detail of daily life.
Have you ever experienced pulling into your driveway and not remembering the details of your drive home? Driving home safely has become a habit which allows you to think about your grocery list and getting dinner on the table.
To change a habit, we must learn to create new neurological routines that overpower those behaviors, forcing bad tendencies into the background. With some help and intentional work, we can figure out our habit loops, identify the cues, the routine that occurs, and the reward we receive. In doing so, we gain power over our habits and can begin to shift our behavior.
- What habit(s) do you struggle to change? Identify the behavior or routine.
- What need gets met by the reward? Experiment with rewards: what’s valuable or meaningful?
- What triggers your behavior? Isolate the cue.
Then, reframe the habit by creating a new habit plan: When I see [cue], I will do [routine], in order to get [reward].
Changing habits is really, really hard work. Biologically, it was meant to be so. But understanding more about how habits work can help us make plans of action. When we have a plan, and a lot of support from people around us, we can all develop new habits that eventually will become old habits.
Going for a walk around the block at 3 pm can replace our bakery run and become as mindless as brushing our teeth.
You do brush your teeth, don’t you?
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” -Romans 12:2
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This week we are giving away one copy of The Power of Habit!
There are 3 ways to be entered in our giveaway – just make sure to tell us what you did so we can count your entry!
- Take a moment to look back through the blog and find a post that catches your attention, then leave a comment with what you like about it! ( = 1 entry)
- “Like” the Clergy Health Initiative’s facebook page! ( = 1 entry)
- Share our blog with 5 friends, and tell them about the giveaway! ( = 1 entry)
You can enter as many times as you’d like, just make sure to leave us a comment ON THIS POST with how many entries are “due” to you! That’s right, if you e-mailed 25 friends (or tagged them in a post on Facebook) about the giveaway, and liked our Facebook page, and left a comment on a previous post, you would be entered 7 times! Thanks for celebrating with us by participating in the giveaway!
A winner will be drawn at random on Friday morning, May 24, so be sure to get all your entries logged by 10 a.m. EDT Friday.
And the winner is Laura Stern! Congratulations! Please contact us Laura, and let us know where to mail your copy of this book!
Thanks to all who commented here on the blog or on our facebook page, and for supporting the work of the blog!
Check back with us for details on our final May giveaway next Monday!