Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom
A Book Review of The Power of Habit
by Charles Duhigg
What a fantastic book: so well researched, so easy to understand, so very interesting. Duhigg shows over and over again that most of what we do is habitual and that habits can be changed and manipulated – by ourselves and by others.
My mother should be happy. This book validates her often-said phrase “When you do things outside the norm, that’s when they go wrong.” My Mom’s not a pessimist or a stick in the mud; what she’s saying is that when you lock your keys in the car, forget your purse, leave the burner turned on, or drive to the store without your grocery list, it’s probably because you approached these routine events outside of the format of your usual routine. Without your habits in place to guide you, you actually have to think about actions you usually don’t think about, and they can go terribly wrong. My Mom and Duhigg are in agreement! In fact, Duhigg claims that 40% of what we do daily is habitual.
One of the chapters that I found most enlightening – and disturbing – reported research using brain scanning to test the lingering power of habits. What researchers found was that even if you have overcome a bad habit (say cluttering the coffee table when you arrive home from work or overeating), the neural pathways for cluttering that table never go away. They are always present in the brain, and that’s why it’s so easy – with the right (wrong!) cues – to fall away from our good habits back to our bad. However, I consoled myself that the opposite must also be true: Somewhere inside my brain there’s still a neural pathway for running 3 or 4 times a week. I just haven’t seen that pathway in a decade or so!
The first part of the book, the section on personal habit development, is the most relevant to our decluttering efforts. What Duhigg explains repeatedly is that habits consist of three parts: The cue (time of day, arrival into the house, presence of certain people, etc.), the routine (which is the habit), and the reward. Duhigg says the reward the most important part of the cycle because habits form when we like the reward. Habits can only be changed, he says, by changing one of these three inputs – usually the routine. I highly recommend that you watch his video here. It’s only about 3 minutes long and explains how he analyzed and changed his habit of eating a cookies every afternoon and lost a dozen pounds as a result of his success.
The other two portions of the book talk about the habits of organizations and the habits of society. There’s some very interesting stuff here, and if you don’t start using cash at Target after reading about their focused marketing, I’ll be mighty surprised. Target knows that during life disruptions (birth of a child, divorce or marriage, move), people change their shopping habits, often without realizing it, and Target does their very best to know – as soon as you do – if any of these life changes are taking place in your household.
Changing from a lifestyle where you continually buy too much, where you never purge, or where you leave things out all over the place are all habits. They’re habits that need changing, and especially if you’re having trouble making changes, this book and some experimentation might really benefit you.
Highly recommended reading.
Today’s Mini Mission
Declutter objects accumulating in the third drawer down in any room ~ kitchen, office desk, bathroom cabinet… It is a strange phenomenon that the third drawer is often the receptacle for clutter.
Today’s Declutter Item
These little plastic lidded cups and storage box used to contain beads in my craft area. They gravitated to the third drawer down when I reduced my stocks and were no longer needed. During the great craft room declutter of June 2012 they were relegated to the donation box. They have since been sold at the thrift store.
Something to be grateful for today
Soaking up the sun on my back patio while being visited by the neighbours cat.
“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast