One of the keys to higher productivity and one of the secrets of achieving success is the formation of good habits. Some habits we develop are conscious, other we just do without thinking too much about it. This book by Charles Duhigg explains how they work… and how we can make good habits stick… and maybe even bend the bad ones to change to good ones in the end.
How I started running more consistently last year
I’ve been trying to run more regularly since 2009 but every time I managed to squeeze a run or even two in a week… I’d not run for another month… It was a constant roller-coaster. I couldn’t get consistent with running. I knew the benefits, I knew how I’d feel after a good run… but somehow “I couldn’t find time for it”…
Last year was different. I’ll report on my running mileage a little later, but suffice to say I’ve been running at least once a week (usually two times) and from running 6km with a lot of effort, I just ran 12km at a very nice pace. But that’s not all. This last year I lost 7kg of body weight while gaining more muscles because I’m now also exercising 2-3 times a week. What happened?
All I did was a small habit change - every Tuesday morning at 9:30 am me and my neighbor would go out for a run. Once a week. Every week. And this habit of consistent running together every week influenced everything else in my life. I’m in my best shape ever.
The habit loop: Cue - Routine - Reward
According to the book the habits are formed this way - there is a cue (scheduled appointment, a time of day, a thing you see, a smell… any “trigger”) and you react to it with a routine… to get a reward in the end. When we observe our habits we get to change the routine that happens after the cue or we can try to modify the reward… and this is how we can tweak the habit loop.
The theory of small victories
Another helpful thing from this book was the theory of small victories and a story of Michael Phelps, the best swimmer ever. It explained how even during the olympics he’d do his routine in the morning to make sure he collected his small victories before he went ahead and got the big one (yet another gold medal :-)
I think this is what got me in shape last year and keeps me going - the small victory of running every week got me to exercise more, to eat healthier, to lose weight and get my act together. This one appointment with my neighbor changed my attitude.
Another example from the book was about a company struggling to make money… and when the new CEO stepped in, he focused on “employee safety” instead of “budget strategy”. This seemed counter-intuitive at the time… but the habit change in the company started making a bigger change in everyone’s minds… and ultimately brought the company back through “small victories”.
Habits, cultivate the good ones and tweak the bad ones
If you want to achieve your goals, get your habits in order. It’s not a coincidence that the name of the blog of one of the most successful bloggers on the Internet is “Zen habits”.
Go read the book. It’s totally worth it. Or better, have someone read it to you while you’re on a jog. This is exactly what I did.
Question: What kind of habits are you planning on changing this year? Which did you manage to put in place? Which have been the most successful for you?