Mastering Habits

There was a free pile of books at work, and I found myself gravitated toward The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. Who knows if it was the bright yellow cover, or the byline, “Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” that caught by eye, but I’m happy it did! I owe 90% of my success in my mind/body/soul transformation to changing my habits and this book guided me along the way.

Habits are an interesting thing. We have productive, unhealthy, supportive, conscious and unconscious habits. 40% of the actions we perform EVERYDAY aren’t  actual decisions, but habits. Think about that. What do your habits say about you?

“Most of the choices we make each day feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits. And though each habit means relatively little on its own, over time, the meals we order, … whether we save or spend, how often we exercise, and the way we organize our thoughts and work routines have enormous impacts on our health, productivity, financial security, and happiness.” – Charles Duhigg

The book is filled with amazing information, starting with the basic cycle of a habit — Trigger > Routine > Reward. Understanding the cycle and that habits can be hacked was shocking to me! It’s our choice to become aware of the good habits and revise the bad. The Trigger and Reward are constants. What we are in control of, and what can be altered, is the Routine.

  • Trigger: I’m bored
  • Routine: Eating, social media, watching TV (un-productive) OR calling a friend, going for a walk, reading a book, listening to a podcast, journaling (supportive)
  • Reward: Provides entertainment and distraction from being bored

Change can come by adapting new routines. Doing them repeatedly will turn them into a habit. Easier said than done, of course.

For me personally, the most realistic way kickstart change is to:

  • Think, Believe & Be Mindful: Pinpoint why this habit needs to be changed, the benefits a new habit will have. Question the habit.
  • Visualize: How will I look once these new habits are part of my everyday? Could it potentially change other behaviors for the better?
  • Consciously Make Small Shifts

“If you believe you can change – if you make it a habit – the change becomes real. This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be. Once that choice occurs – and becomes automatic – it’s not only real, it starts to seem inevitable” – Charles Duhigg

I feel like change is perceived as scary or intimidating because it seems to hard, takes too much work, or requires an unimaginable amount of motivation and inspiration. This is far from the truth. The Power of Habit taught me you are what you repeatedly do. Once a routine is developed, whether supportive or un-supportive of the lifestyle we want to live by, our brain clings to it because it’s trying to conserve it’s energy for unexpected situations, emergencies, etc.

“Habits, … emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often.”  – Charles Duhigg

Then there are “keystone habits” It’s a habit that sets off a chain reaction to other good habits. For me, that habit is making my work week lunches on Sunday. That causes me to stick to my meal plan, which leads to motivation to go to the gym, which then sets me up to have a healthy hearty dinner. The secret sauce to creating a keystone habit is the small wins. They are modest daily efforts, that when repeated can lead to huge reward in other areas of life.

Sarah’s top 5 Habits for an abundant life:

  1. Plan for the day ahead
  2. Move/exercise regularly
  3. Use a calendar for reminders, upcoming appointments, birthdays
  4. Washing all dishes & quick clean up before leaving for work
  5. Keeping in touch with friends/family

Do you have any habits that you want to change?

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