I have thought a lot about the power of habits over the years. Stephen R. Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People remains one of my all time favorite books. This one is good also and well worth the read in a different way. I recommend it to anyone wanting to make changes in their life, and I give it four stars.
For me, this book improved after a beginning that set the stage in brain research, including operations on rats. I understand the importance of making clear how a habit is an unthinking response, but I guess I just didn’t need that fact supported by detailed biology. After that, however, I found the rest of this book fascinating. He discusses individual habits, corporate habits, and cultural habits.
He explains how every habit is made up of a cue, followed by a routine and culminating in a reward. To change a habit, you need to identify a cue and a reward but change the routine between them while still honoring the needs of the cue and reward.
Let’s say you crave freedom. Your cue could be feeling stressed out and your reward might be a sense of release. But to accomplish that, your habit might be to keep quitting things. This accomplishes the reward in the short term but not the long term, so it is not the best habit. A better routine for forging freedom would be facing challenges and getting the release of triumphing over them instead of avoiding them.
So identify the cues that make you flip out or overeat or whatever. What do you need? Is there a more constructive routine to get you there?
Support of others helps and so does identifying what this author calls keystone habits. Choose one kingpin habit that if you change that one thing all sorts of other changes will ensue like toppling dominos. These things are often like quitting smoking, exercising, or praying regularly. What one thing could you focus on that would make the most difference in your life? Then focus on that one thing, and watch the ripple effect.
There were examples from ALCOA, whose keystone habit was worker safety that turned the whole company around, and Starbucks who made training paramount. We read about Target, who knows all about your buying habits, as well as the legal ramifications of certain habits like sleepwalking and gambling.
Overall, this is a very interesting, worthwhile book that leaves you looking at both yourself and your world differently. It made me both notice and want to break some of my less productive patterns. I hope to put what I learned here into practical application.