Some thinkers, hold that it is by nature that people become good, others that it is by habit, and others that it is by instruction. However, according to me, habits reign supreme. The behaviors that occur unthinkingly are the evidence of our truest selves. Just as a piece of land has to be prepared beforehand if it is to nourish the seed, so the mind of the pupil has to be prepared in its habits if it is to enjoy and dislike the right things. – Aristotle
Habits are not as simple as they appear. Habits—even once they are rooted in our minds—aren’t destiny. We can choose our habits, once we know how. Everything we know about habits, from neurologists studying amnesiacs and organizational experts remaking companies, is that any of them can be changed, if you understand how they function.
Hundreds of habits influence our days—they guide how we get dressed in the morning, talk to our kids, and fall asleep at night; they impact what we eat for lunch, how we do business,and whether we exercise or have a beer after work. Each of them has a different cue and offers a unique reward. Some are simple and others are complex, drawing upon emotional triggers and offering subtle neurochemical prizes. But every habit, no matter its complexity, is malleable. The most addicted alcoholics can become sober. The most dysfunctional companies can transform themselves. A high school dropout can become a successful manager.
However, to modify a habit, you must decide to change it. You must consciously accept the hard work of identifying the cues and rewards that drive the habits’ routines, and find alternatives. You must know you have control and be self-conscious enough to use it. And once you know a habit exists, you have the responsibility to change it.
Almost all the other patterns that exist in most people’s lives—how we eat and sleep and talk to our kids, how we unthinkingly spend our time, attention, and money—those are habits that we know exist. And once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom—and the responsibility—to remake them. Once you understand that habits can be rebuilt, the power of habit becomes easier to grasp, and the only option left is to get to work.
“All our life,” William James says, “so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits—practical, emotional, and intellectual—systematically organized for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be
The will to believe is the most important ingredient in creating belief in change. And that one of the most important methods for creating that belief was habits. Habits, he noted, are what allow us to “do a thing with difficulty the first time, but soon do it more and more easily, and finally, with sufficient practice, do it semi-mechanically, or with hardly any consciousness at all.” Once we choose who we want to be, people grow “to the way in which they have been exercised, just as a sheet of paper or a coat, once creased or folded, tends to fall forever afterward into the same identical folds.”
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, the thing, as James wrote, that bears “us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.”
The way we habitually think of our surroundings and ourselves create the worlds that each of us inhabit. To understand this read this story,
There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’. And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?
The water is habits, the unthinking choices and invisible decisions that surround us every day—and which, just by looking at them, become visible again.Water, is the most apt analogy for how a habit works. Water “hollows out for itself a channel, which grows broader and deeper; and, after having ceased to flow, it resumes, when it flows again, the path traced by itself before.”
You can redirect the path. You can change your habits.
You can read these posts which I have written before, which are my notes from the book ” The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg:
- The Habit Loop: How Habits Work
- The Craving Brain: How To Create New Habits
- The Golden Rule of Habit Change: Why Transformation Occurs
- Keystone Habits: Which Habits Matter Most
- Willpower: The Habit For Success
- The Habits of Organisations and How to make them better
- How companies predict and manipulate our habits
- How movements happen
You can also read these items to get a better understanding:
- A Conversation with Charles Duhigg
- Study Guide for The Power of Habit
- A guide to changing your habits
And best of all, you can buy the book or borrow the book itself :The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.