Book Reaction: The Power of Habit

One of the anticipated joys of leaving graduate school was replacing all that time I spent reading burdensome required reading with exciting non-required reading instead. I have had mixed success with actually making this happen... though one might say I haven’t developed proper book-reading habits that support my desire to read more.

Ba dum dum.

When Stephanie and I agreed that reading slash learning slash getting into other people’s ideas would be a part of how we work together, I chose The Power of Habit as my first book choice, rather unironically.

Our goal is expand our world of knowledge and exposure by each reading a book a month. We plan to share some thoughts on each book with the intention of inspiring your own book-reading curiosities and simultaneously pointing out where the literature about the topics we talk about agrees or disagrees with our own point of view. Here goes attempt #1… a reaction to a book that discusses habits: What it takes to form them, what it takes to break them, and how habits shape our world and our experiences.

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The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Quick overview

Charles Duhigg explores the science and stories behind habits, how they form, what they do to us as individuals and in business settings and how they can be changed. It’s one of the more readable business books I’ve experienced with a nice mix of theory, storytelling and mini habit loop diagrams to carry the point.

What struck me as important and/or interesting:

  • Habits are made of a three step loop: cue, routine, reward. To understand (and change) a habit, you have to unpack each of those three steps, not just the routine.
  • One of the best ways to change a habit is by replacing it with a new one. For example, if you want to stop chewing your nails, it's easier to make yourself chew gum every time you have that craving than it is to just tell yourself NOT to chew your nails. Not doing something is hard. Doing something else is easier.
  • This may be obvious, but habits are a fantastic way to change your own behavior if you can do it. Once established, habits become unconscious, so you no longer have to spend mental energy or angst.

What I’m doing with the info:

As entrepreneurs, Stephanie and I are constantly navigating a shifting landscape of on-the-business and in-the-business goals, projects, and to dos. One of the brilliant elements of having a super young company in a constantly changing context is that our habits are not institutionalized. An opportunity! For example, we didn’t think strategically all that much about marketing, so we put a recurring meeting on the calendar and now we have Marketing Monday every week. It consists of both a one-hour connect where we discuss the high-level goals and short-term details to get the word out about wolf & heron, and a broader objective of spending Mondays devoted to writing blog posts, getting facebook announcements ready and queued up, etc.

  • Cue: It's Monday, and we've got a marketing connect on the calendar.
  • Routine: Focused time to be strategic and focused time on the to dos.
  • Reward: Satisfaction of accomplishing a lot on a Monday, and setting the week up right!

Fierce Leader double click:

The I in Fierce stands for Intention. The ideas within this book can help you approach your universe with greater awareness and intention. Consider:

  • What habit loops do you have? How are they positively or negatively impacting your WorkLife?
  • How could you pick one of those habit loops, and with intention, make a change to create a new cue, routine and reward?

Quote to remember:

“The way we habitually think of our surroundings and ourselves create the worlds that each of us inhabit.” (p 273)

- Kara Davidson, Co-Founder, wolf & heron