The Power Of Habits

Compound The Efficiency Of Habits

Habits Will Sustain You, Maintain You Or Undermine You


Greg Spalenka

The power of habits is firstly that they are regular and automatic, and secondly that they can:

  • Sustain you
  • Maintain you
  • Undermine you

A habit is defined as: "an automatic response to a specific situation, acquired normally as a result of repetition and learning".




The Power Of Habits - SUSTAINING

The road was icy and narrow and as the Mercedes I was driving barrelled along (too fast), I was chatting to my teenage son. Suddenly a large van appeared coming towards us. He also was going too fast.

We were heading straight into a serious accident. I automatically took avoiding action and without touching the brake I steered into the gulley at the edge of the road and back onto the road whilst maintaining our speed. The oncoming van driver did the same and both vehicles shot past each other without a scratch.

The whole thing was over in less time than it's taken you to read this.

"Dad, how on earth did you do that?" asked my son. "Habit son, habit" I replied "...based on accumulated experience of many years driving in all weathers and conditions..."




The Power Of Habits - MAINTAINING

We were canooing in Halong Bay (Vietnam) about 2km off-shore. Unlike the calm conditions in the picture, there was a heavy swell and a stiff and freshening breeze.

Looking further out into the bay I could see dark clouds and what looked like a squall approaching. Whilst the immediate conditions were safe nevertheless I felt uneasy.

Old habits from extensive sea canooing many years previously kicked in and I found myself reading the conditions... noting the falling temperature, the taste of moisture in the increasing wind, and the white tops forming on the swell...

We circled round and headed back to shore...




The Power Of Habits - UNDERMINING

I have indulged in all of the usual vices and thankfully emerged relatively unscathed except for smoking...

For many years I used to smoke.  I would stop for a few years and then start smoking again. The trouble is, that I like smoking - but my body doesn't! It's a habit that is deeply ingrained.

I finally figured out how to replace my smoking habit with a non-smoking habit...




The Efficiency Of Habits in Response Management

Habits are efficient and enable us to perform thought processes and behaviours without wasting time and energy figuring out what to do, and they do not require your conscious attention.

Habits are amoral and indifferent to outcome their sole function is to maximise the efficiency of your thinking and doing.

In a recent article we have looked in some depth at "The Law Of Response And Outcome" as means of living a resourceful life.

Managing your responses to events is entirely based on the efficiency of your habits:


Thinking 

How you think is governed by habits. Your brain processes and organizes information in a number of different ways utilising a range of hardwired  thinking processes. Your capacity to apply the most appropriate cognitive process to the situation you are faced with will largely be driven by your habits.


Not Thinking

Being able to stop thinking - turn your thoughts off at will, and then witness or observe (without narrative or analysis) your thoughts and feelings as they arise is based on habit, the whole practice of mindfulness is entirely based on habits.


Focus

Maintaining a consistent and persistent point of focus - on your long term goals in the pursuit of your life purpose is grounded in habits.


Responsiveness

Managing your responses to the events in your life - influences the outcomes that you experience. The strength and quality of your responses are determined by your supporting skills and experience all of which is grounded in habits.




Compounding The Power Of Habits

How small habits make a big difference over the long-term

James Clear’s book Atomic Habits explores the long term power of compounding, also known as the long game

Small barely noticeable changes can make a major difference when you factor in the passage of time. Clear says:

"...if you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. Conversely, if you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you’ll decline nearly down to zero...

...when we repeat 1 percent errors, day after day, by replicating poor decisions, duplicating tiny mistakes, and rationalizing little excuses, our small choices compound into toxic results.

Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement

The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them.

They seem to make little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous."

The best opportunities in life are those offer superior returns, low risk, and a long duration.

Investing in yourself in yourself and forming the right habits offer high returns in your investment of application and energy over the long term.

Good habits can give you a significant, sustainable competitive advantage in life.

Good habits can give you an advantageous divergence from the herd.





The Science Of The Power Of Habits

One of the most well known and popular books on the power of habits is The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg and he has written in detail about the science of the formation and change in habits:

Chunking

"The process—in which the brain converts a sequence of actions into an automatic routine—is known as ‘chunking,’ and it’s at the root of how habits form."

Origin of habits

"Habits, scientists say, 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. This effort-saving instinct is a huge advantage."

Three-Step Loop of Habit Formation

"This process within our brains is a three-step loop.

First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use.

Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional.

Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future...

Over time, this loop—cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward—becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges. Eventually… a habit is born."

Does the Brain Stop Functioning?

"When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks.

So unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically."

Changing A Habit

"...a habit cannot be eradicated—it must, instead, be replaced.

If we keep the same cue and the same reward, a new routine can be inserted. But that’s not enough.

For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible. And most often, that belief only emerges with the help of a group."

Permanence Of Habits

Habits never really disappear. They’re encoded into the structures of our brain, and that’s a huge advantage for us, because it would be awful if we had to relearn how to drive after every vacation. The problem is that your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits, and so if you have a bad one, it’s always lurking there, waiting for the right cues and rewards.”

James Clear builds on Charles Duhiggs work in this article: 

How To Start New Habits That Actually Stick

Read an overview and key point summary of "Atomic Habits"






Further Reading:

Better Than Before - Mastering Habits [Book Summary]

5 Buddhist Teachings on Working With Habitual Patterns of Thought

Habits Of Incredibly Happy People


Free Download: One Page Summary Sheet With Action Points & Resources


Return from The Power of Habits to: Renewing Your Mind






Zen-Tools.Net



English Chinese (Traditional) Russian French German Italian Spanish Vietnamese


LATEST ARTICLES

  1. Going With The Flow - The Balance Of Being And Doing

    Steer The Boat Each Day Rather Than Plan Ahead Way Into The Future. Going with the flow is about learning to become comfortable with uncertainty, and learning how to exploit the potential hidden withi…

    Read More

  2. 8 Principles For Success

    A Timeless Foundation On Which To Build Your Success. There are Universal laws and processes that work to support us and guarantee that we achieve all our goals. But first we need to know what they ar…

    Read More

  3. The Loving Father

    A Love That Will Not Let You Go. I had a loving father. I knew that I did, but I never felt it. My father was a good man but very damaged and unable to show his feelings. So I grew up knowing in my he…

    Read More

  4. Your Ebenezer Stone Of Help

    How To Stay Connected To Your True Source Of Power. Approximately 2,500 years ago the Israeli town of Kafr Qasim was close to the site of two battles between the ancient Israelis and their neighbours…

    Read More

  5. The Stockdale Paradox

    How To Deal With The Attrition Factor. The Stockdale Paradox is named after the late James Stockdale, former vice presidential candidate, naval commander and prisoner of war during the American-Vietna…

    Read More

  6. Embrace Your Fear Of Failure And Uncertainty

    We Celebrate Success And Ignore Failure. Numerous studies have been undertaken on successful people to understand what it was that they did to become so successful, how they did it and when they did i…

    Read More

  7. The Wilderness Years - 3 Keys To An Exit

    How You Got Into The Wilderness Matters Less Than The Lessons To Be Learnt There. The wilderness years can be described as any lengthy time, longer than a year, that is spend aimlessly; without an imm…

    Read More

  8. Boredom – Your Greatest Threat to Results

    We Live In A World That Glorifies The Results And Not The Process. We all know what we should be doing, but the trouble with that is that sooner of later we get bored. The enjoyment fades, the excitem…

    Read More

  9. The Luck Factor - 4 Basic Principles

    You Can Master The Art of Creating Your Own Luck By Mastering 4 Key Principles "The Luck Factor" is the title of a book published 20 years ago based on the research of Professor Richard Wiseman who fo…

    Read More

  10. Your Relationship With Failure Is Critical To Your Success

    Just Because You Have A Spectacular Failure Doesn’t Mean The Game Is Over. The thought that you could fail can really slow you down. But the problem is not the failure, the problem is your relationshi…

    Read More

  11. Lost, Stuck & Going Round In Circles?

    Are You Lost In Transition? To be in an alien North African city, late in the evening, in the dark, completely lost in transition from the main market square back to the obscure location of our Riad…

    Read More

  12. Seeing Is Believing Or Is It?

    Do You Believe What You See Or Do You See What You Believe? Like the characters in "The Matrix" we are fooled by the illusion that what we see is how things really are. Why? Because this is the mind's…

    Read More

  13. What Difference Did You Make?

    What Impact Will You Leave In The Lives Of Others? If you knew you were going to die tonight and you were given a few minutes to reflect before that happened, what would you say was the meaning of yo…

    Read More

  14. Compassion Is Selfish And You Need It

    If You Want Others To Be Happy, Practice Compassion. If You Want To Be Happy, Practice Compassion. Compassion is derived from the Latin words "com pati" meaning to suffer with. It has been defined as…

    Read More

  15. The Placebo Effect - 2 Key Takeaways

    The Power Of Expectation Of An Outcome Regardless Of The Lack Of Any Substance To That Expectation. Traditionally, the placebo effect occurs when false, or dummy, treatments of inert substances [that…

    Read More

  16. The Red Pill

    This Is What Will Happen After You Take It. "This is your last chance," rebel leader Morpheus tells Neo, holding a coloured pill in each hand. “You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in y…

    Read More

  17. Transformational Life Hacks

    This Has To Be One Of The Best Ways For Living The Best Life You Can Possibly Live. An online search on life hacks will invariably provide you with multiple links to ways of increasing your productivi…

    Read More

  18. This Too Shall Pass

    The Blessing And The Curse Of Impermanence. There is a story of a king who sought wisdom. Eventually he heard of a man living in a remote part of the kingdom who had a reputation for great wisdom. The…

    Read More

  19. The Stories We Tell Ourselves

    The Stories That We Tell Ourselves Are A Matter Of Choice. The stories we tell ourselves form the backcloth and the tapestry of our lives. These narratives shape and define our sense of self and how a…

    Read More

  20. Who Do You Trust?

    Trust Is A Choice And It Creates Your Reality. Nothing in life is permanent and nothing lasts forever. Every relationship ends in tears. Somebody leaves or somebody dies. This is how things are. This…

    Read More

  21. How Positive Asymmetry Can Transform Your Life

    Finding This Hidden Value Is The Key To A Huge Upside. Most of us spend our lives working to linear rules where there is an equal relationship between effort and result. Work hard you get a result. Wo…

    Read More

  22. 5 Tips For Developing A Growth Mindset

    How To Be There When Preparation Meets Opportunity. The growth mindset holds the core belief that your intelligence and personality is something you can develop and that you can expand and grow. The p…

    Read More

  23. Lost For Words? Experience Truth

    If you can't think of the right thing to say, say nothing. The concepts we employ, the categorizations we apply and the words we choose and use to articulate a direct experience put us in a double bi…

    Read More

  24. Belief - A Terrible Tyrant Or An Empowering Servant

    To Believe Or Not To Believe - That Is The Question. Nothing has inflicted more suffering on humanity than its beliefs and dogmas. The religious and cultural beliefs that sanction and allow or impose…

    Read More

  25. How To Avoid Herd Mentality

    How To Stay Far From The Madding Crowd. Herd mentality describes how we make decisions based on what everyone else is thinking and doing. It is also known as a mob or crowd mentality. We follow the he…

    Read More

  26. Are You Trying To Teach A Cat To Bark?

    We Suffer Every Time We Believe A Thought That Argues With What Is. When your mind is perfectly clear, what is, is what you want. If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well try…

    Read More

  27. The Value Of Slack

    Slack Is The Capacity To Effect Change And The Resource To Deal With The Unexpected. Many organizations are obsessed with efficiency and try to ensure that every resource is fully utilized to its full…

    Read More

  28. 6 Tips To Help You Stop Trying Too Hard

    Less and less do you need to force things, until you arrive at non-action. We are brought up to believe that we get what we want in life as a result of what we do, by the actions that we take, that ha…

    Read More

  29. Your Point Of Focus

    Is It Helping You Or Hindering You? Your point of focus is the central point of your attention. Your point of focus is a binary choice and the result of that choice is critical to your happiness, your…

    Read More

  30. Your Secret For Success

    To accomplish any success in life, you must identify accurately what it is that you hunger for, thirst for and long for. The purpose of this article is to look at the foundation of the secret for succ…

    Read More





The Balanced Life



The Balanced Toolkit



3 Keys Solutions


Get new posts by email:



Support This Site