The title of this post seems like one from a cheap flyer or a spam email promising you instant success and riches by doing the simplest, absurdest of things! Don’t you think? Well guess what. This is the real deal. Remember what Seth Godin once said, ‘small is the new big’. It’s true for our lives as well. Yes my dear reader that small habit you seem to be stuck with is the one thing that’s going to bring you down – that habit of always ordering the ‘Cowboy Burger’ with extra cheese instead of the healthier, leaner salmon salad (despite planning to do so) or procrastinating from REAL work by perpetually living in your ‘inbox’, responding to every buzz from your Crackberry! It all counts! Because on the other end of the paradigm are the “winners” and the “achievers” who like everyone else are nothing more than creatures of habits. The only difference – all their habits add up to something awesome! From the early morning run to managing their work routine. It all comes down to habits – sometimes only just one!
What am I talking about? Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg. It’s a must read especially if you are a fan of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”! That book was the WHAT this is the HOW! The science behind habits is very simple. Habits are a self-energizing loop that start with a cue, leading to an action which over time becomes a routine. All of this is driven by a reward, which when repeated over time creates a craving. A craving then triggers the desire for the reward at the slightest hint of a cue, creating what is known as the habit loop (phew!).
So how do you change a bad habit? Resisting the reward is futile. Instead aim to change the routine while seeking the same reward. Easier said then done, but it’s possible. There are countless researches that prove how changing a routine changed the habit. The golden rule of transformation however ” bad habits don’t really go away”. Habits are sticky and changing a routine can be a huge challenge. Sometimes unsurmountable unless one believes in the impossible. Yes! Just the belief that change is possible can lead to a behavior change. Belief is the secret sauce behind the transformative change brought about by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) among other things! How to go about changing a habit then? Believe. Change the
routine. Repeat until a new habit loop develops.
This is brief recap of the principles of habit change at a personal level. In a follow-up post I will talk about the impact of habits on organizations and how by focusing on certain keystone habits organizations have turned themselves around. Small indeed is the new big!