Tuesday Morning Focal Point

Scrap your resolutions – try understanding your habits

A book recommendation: The Power of Habit, Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

The calendar flips to January. We see and hear all about fresh starts, resolutions, goals, and new beginnings. Come February and March, many of these great ideas and ambitious goals have fizzled out. Why not try a different approach in 2019? Why not learn the science (and little bit of non scientific data) behind your habits enabling you to change or redirect them? Doing so will ensure this month’s shoot-for-the-moon ideals will last long beyond Valentine’s Day.

Choices or Habits

Are you aware that 40% of the decisions you make each day are not choices? Rather they are your habits. Understanding the habit loop (cue, routine, reward) will be the key you need to intentionally alter your patterns or the habits of others whom you have impact on.

In The Power of Habit, why we do what we do in life and business Charles Duhigg unpack the relatively newly study science behind our habits. Duhigg takes an approach of taking scientific data and blending it with story based colour commentary. He purports that habits can be changed if we understand how they work. These habits can be ours, our customer’s, a loved one’s, or our community’s. Is the habit that is sparking your resolution related to corporate growth, personal development, or the need to stop an action? Knowing how our brain carries out these habits is critical to implement permanent change.

Habits that are personal in nature

Understanding how your habits work by way of understanding the structure of habits make them easier to control. Duhigg tells the beautiful story of Eugene, an elderly man who is the object of scientific research. The research study is on habit forming and memory. Researchers and Eugene’s family learned how he had deeply ingrained habits despite not having a memory.

The book touches on nail biting, weight loss, and why AA is so successful despite not being built from a scientific perspective. The personal growth and development that can form from being aware of your habit loops is limitless. In addition, after reading you will be able to drop the term basal ganglia in to conversation appropriately. I mean, who doesn’t want to be able to do that?

Habits of your business

When you understand how your employees form habits you can then positively manipulate workplace culture by making small changes. Likewise, the buying and consuming customs of your customers can be manipulated with your knowledge of what has gone in to building the buying practices.

The book highlights how Alcoa’s new CEO’s only mandate was improve worker safety and why it resulted in skyrocketing profits. Here the author touches on keystone habits and how changing the keystone can impact so many other habits. Before this science was documented and discovered, Hopkins developed marketing rules that changed buying customs of his consumers. Who would have thought that the right marketing campaign that created a problem no one knew they had would launch Pepsident in to world wide record breaking sales? In hindsight, Hopkins had unknowingly tapped in to what created habits for consumers; he created acknowledgement of a “cue” the purchaser wasn’t even aware of.

What about willpower and belief?

Summarized in the book are scientific studies that look in to willpower and how it impacts habits. It turns out that willpower is a finite resource. Willpower is actually a skill that can be built and refined. As such, being similar to our muscles, it can be honed and built. Willpower also has limited strength.

Duhigg touches on the concept of belief; having hope and faith. He outlines how, in addition to understanding the science behind habits, the concept of belief can not go unaddressed. He tells the heartwarming and tragic story of NFL coach, Tony Dungey, who understood the importance of the gametime habits of his players. Unfortunately, these deeply ingrained habits did not produce the desired results until the players also developed belief.


The Power of Habit - Why we do what we do in life and businessI have listened to this book twice and will frequently recommend it to anyone who gives me the opportunity to contribute my suggestions to their “to read next” list. Whether your interests lay in character development, sports, faith and church, or shopping – this book includes an example that will engage you. The stories between the pages of The Power of Habit reflect real world experiences on habits enabling the author to make the brain science behind habits easy to comprehend.