I just finished a fascinating book called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg.
Everything we do in our life is a series of habits. Once we recognize that “it’s all habit”, it makes it believable that habits can change.
Think about when you first learned to drive a car. To quote Mr. Duhigg:
Take the act of backing your car out of the driveway. When you first learned to drive, the driveway required a major dose of concentration, and for good reason: it involves opening the garage, unlocking the car door, adjusting the seat, inserting the key in the ignition, turning it clockwise, moving the rear view and side mirrors and checking for obstacles, putting your foot on the brake, moving the gearshift into reverse, removing your foot from the brake, mentally estimating the distance between the garage and the street while keeping the wheels aligned and monitoring for ongoing traffic, calculating how reflected images in the mirrors translate into actual distances between the bumper, the garbage cans, and the hedges, all while applying slight pressure to the gas pedal and brake, and, most likely, telling your passenger to stop fiddling with the radio.
Nowadays, however, you do all of that every time you pull into the street with hardly any thought. The routine occurs by habit.
Now think about when you wake up in the morning:
- What side of the bed do you get out of?
- Do you reach for a cup of coffee?
- Do you get ready for your day at the same time?
- Which shoe do you put on first?
In broad strokes, Mr. Duhigg identifies the framework for changing habits:
- Identify the routine
- Experiment with rewards
- Isolate a cue
- Have a plan
Whether or not habits are easy to change is a conversation for another day. But just because a habit may not be easy to change, does not mean that you do not have the power within you to change it. We all have the power to change.
I’ll conclude with one more quote, from the Roman poet, Horace:
Rule your mind or it will rule you.