The Power of Habit Identification

Posted by on February 4, 2013 in Day to Day | 1 comment

Look at Habits Differently

Look at Habits Differently

“Duhigg brings a heaping, much-needed dose of social science and psychology to the subject, explaining the promise and perils of habits via an entertaining ride that touches on everything from marketing to management studies to the civil-rights movement… a fascinating read.”—Newsweek Daily Beast

Does the picture on the left make you uncomfortable? So will changing habits that have been ingrained into your DNA.. This is a continuation of my last post on the power of habit. I do realize that I said I would post what my bad habit was the next day, and then didn’t. Any guesses on why?

Yes, it was due to the bad habit I am trying to change in the process of changing.

What IS the bad habit?

Lack of adequate sleep – or in my case, being in a constant state of self induced sleep-deprivation. Fooling myself into thinking that I could function well on three hours of sleep (less on a few occasions this past week). There I said it. It’s  not a drug or gambling habit – but you know what? It’s just as hard for someone like me, who’s been doing it for decades, to kick the habit. It’s addicting. I tell myself I’ll stop, yet I find myself staying up to do “just one more thing”.  Am I Exhausted? Yes. Am I more productive for doing that one last thing? No.

“The Power of Habit” chronicles a woman who becomes addicted to gambling. Oddly enough, it was this example that made me realize my sleeping habits were completely out of control. I had gone from being a self-proclaimed night owl to someone who was now operating in a constant state of sleep deprivation.

The woman in the example went from being a mom who found she was good at gambling, to gambling every day and eventually losing a million dollar inheritance. She had not previously experienced problems with addictive behavior – so how did this happen?

According to author Charles Duhigg “First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode. Then there is the routine – the behavior itself – which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular behavior is worth remembering for the future.” This is a cycle that Duhigg learned all habits share.

Diagnosing the Three Parts of the Habit

With this theory, I must now identify the “habit loop” specific to my habit. This may take some testing before I get it right. What I believe it to be, is this:

The Cue:  All of our “after work” chores are behind us for the evening. I’m sitting at my computer/laptop/phone, and no one else is around.  I’m working on finishing up a blog post, or catching up on the social media networks I belong to. I’m feeling productive.

According to the book, one of these things is the “cue”. It’s the one thing that stays the same every time I feel the urge. In my case, it seems to be that the “after work” chores are behind us for the evening. This is now “my time” I can do whatever I feel like, free of self-imposed guilt. Nothing else is looming over my head.

The Reward:

I’m completing something that is important to me.

What really drives me, is that I’m not posting or writing for my book as often as I would like to be. So when it becomes “my time”,  there I am, ready to go. I finish my post and it’s the equivalent of sitting at the blackjack table with a winning hand.  I look at the clock. 11:30 p.m., not bad, still early. Most rational people would go to bed at this point. Do I? Nope. I USED to.  Now, I move on to work on a future post, write for the book, or anything except sleep..

Writing finished – another winning hand! I look at the time again. How can it be 1:30 a.m. already? Oh well, it’s already this late, I might as well go through my twitter followers too. Oh, and I better write down all those questions that came up as I was doing my research. Oh-oh, I also have an email on my list that I’d like to answer, and another one that I need to send. No problem, that won’t take too long… And so it goes.  At 4:01 I walk away from my device of choice.

The Routine: Now that I’ve identified the cue and the reward, I will need to replace them with a new routine that delivers the old reward. I hope that this part will lead me to an outcome that is as successful as the woman who started drinking and smoking as a teen, was thousands of dollars in debt, and had battled weight issues her entire life.

The next  post will resume with the womans’ story and the brain-hack I’m going to incorporate.

Have you had a life changing transformation? What steps did you take to make it happen?

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1 Comment

  1. I was thinking that maybe we can break some habit by TRACKING them, The Power of Habit hints at this, but I don’t think he fully develops the idea. Think of the @ sign. Let the “a” inside the sign be the focus of attention with a habit. Now, imagine how you circle around the “a” to form a habit. If you can TRACK the path that you follow, you might be able to alter the habit. I wonder what you think. THANKS Harry @ Rochester NY