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The Power of Habit

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As I mentioned in my first post of 2013, most of my goals this year are habits I want to develop.  So my friend couldn’t have introduced me to this book at a better time!  I used to be very adverse to reading books in PDF but since I’m not an avid note-taker, being able to copy and paste key points I want to remember directly from the PDF turned out to be one useful perk!

Here are the main points I jot down:

If you use the same cue, and provide the same reward, you can shift the routine and change the habit. Almost any behavior can be transformed if the cue and reward stay the same. (55)

For most people who overhaul their lives, there are no seminal moments or life-altering disasters. There are simply communities—sometimes of just one other person—who make change believable. (73)

O’Neill believed that some habits have the power to start a chain reaction, changing other habits as they move through an organization. Some habits, in other words, matter more than others in remaking businesses and lives. These are “keystone habits,” and they can influence how people work, eat, play, live, spend, and communicate. Keystone habits start a process that, over time, transforms everything. (80)

Take, for instance, studies from the past decade examining the impacts of exercise on daily routines. 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. But for many people, exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change. (85)

This is how willpower becomes a habit: by choosing a certain behavior ahead of time, and then following that routine when an inflection point arrives. (109)

“When people are asked to do something that takes self-control, if they think they are doing it for personal reasons—if they feel like it’s a choice or something they enjoy because it helps someone else—it’s much less taxing. If they feel like they have no autonomy, if they’re just following orders, their willpower muscles get tired much faster.  (112)

If you dress a new something in old habits, it’s easier for the public to accept it. (151)

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 every chapter in this book is devoted to illustrating a different aspect of why that control is real. (190)

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.” (191)

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