The Habit Whisperer

10.05.2017 0 Josh Markisko


How to Lose Bad Habits and Keep Good Ones

When most of us hear the word “research” and “writing,” we have horrific flashbacks to notecards, libraries, red pens exploding on our research papers by old grumpy English teachers, and the frustration of “What the heck does this have to do with anything in my life?”

However, as adults, we really should revisit this notion of research. That grumpy English teacher is probably dead now or writing all over someone else’s paper. You are safe and you really should give it a try again: it’s a brand new Googling kind of world out there.

I research in a random “Google search” kind of crazed fashion. As a writing and psychology junkie, I love the act of the hunt for research. I pretend to be the English rider in my red jacket on my fancy horse chasing elegantly for the foxy nugget of info that will change the lives of millions.  That’s what it looks like in my head. I think I probably look more like the lady in the movie theater in the dark trying to find the piece of popcorn between her boobs.

Needless to say, I still find the answers and I always try to verify the heck out of them for accuracy and for opposing opinions just to make sure I haven’t been duped into thinking that piece of popcorn is actually a Milkdud (true story).

I love the times in my research when I find something that I truly believe may have been overlooked by my readers, but seems so profound and so exciting, I want to put cute little patio lights all over the article with the photo booth arrow that says, “Look at me! Look at me!”

Charles Duhigg, an investigative reporter for The New York Times and author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business  presents an exhilarating argument that can essentially fix pretty much everything: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is just simply understanding how habits work.  As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

Most of us have heard that pseudo fact that it takes X number of days to make something a habit but Y number of days to stop. But a habit is much more than that.

In 2012, the New York Times reviewed Duhigg’s book:  “ Duhigg has read hundreds of scientific papers and interviewed many of the scientists who wrote them, and relays interesting findings on habit formation and change from the fields of social psychology, clinical psychology and neuroscience. This is not a self-help book conveying one author’s homespun remedies, but a serious look at the science of habit formation and change.”

Imagine thousands of years ago and the fear of thunder as someone who doesn’t understand weather and the science behind it. No wonder the Greeks called it “the anger of the gods.” The study of ancient literature almost always makes clear that myths and fables were made to explain away the fears of the unexplainable. So, understanding something makes something easier to accept and thus make a part of your life.

Duhigg explains his theory when he writes, “Once you understand that habits can change,” he concludes, “you have the freedom — and the responsibility — to remake them. Once you understand that habits can be rebuilt, the power becomes easier to grasp, and the only option left is to get to work.”

The NYTimes goes on to explain that  Duhigg believes “that by understanding the nature of habits we can influence group behavior, turning companies into profit makers and ensuring the success of social movement.”

Duhigg further magnifies the power of understanding a “keystone habit” by giving the example of exercise and then writing, “When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, often unknowingly. Typically people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. It's not completely clear why ... 'Exercise spills over,' said James Prochaska, a University of Rhode Island researcher. 'There's something about it that makes other good habits easier.'"

The following chart comes from directly from Duhigg’s website and is a simple and interesting fill-in-the-blank examination into your personal habits you want to stop or stop in order to understand concept of how habits are formed. If you do actually write on this form and look at your goals and why we start or stop certain habits, the revelations are palpable.  Happy habit understanding to us all, and thank you, Mr. Duhigg, for giving us a real reason to begin a new healthy day. Change Infographic

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