The Power of Habit Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Lessons

The Power of Habit Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Initial Thoughts

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Believe it or not, habits run our lives. But how great would it be if we could run our habits?

By Dan Gonzales                                                                                                  February 23, 2019

Believe it or not, habits run our lives. But how great would it be if we could run our habits? 

 By Dan Gonzales                              February 22, 2019 

The Power of Habit Book Lessons (Rate 11/10) Pages 286, Read time: 1.5 months

The Power of Habit, Initial Thoughts (Rate 10/10) Pages 286 Read time: 1.5 months

When I think about "The Power of Habit" the phrase “History repeats itself” comes to mind. One of the book’s main points inculcated in the reader’s mind early is that our lives are distinctly governed and shaped by our habits. I had an epiphany moment when I read this and I could not agree more. How many times do things get done without even being conscious that you're doing them? A prime example is driving a car. Sure, when someone first starts driving after getting their license it will feel strange and new. However, after months of driving the same commute for months, it becomes routine. 

Take for example this situation, it’s Monday morning of a work week and depending on if you love or hate your job, there are two ways your wake up/getting out of bed process can go. The first example is person A; person A hates his job and absolutely dreads the morning routine, but he/she sucks it up and does what they need to do to get ready for work. Next, there is person B; person B absolutely loves their job and brushes off any traces of exhaustion and readily begins his/her morning. Perhaps what's at play here is that the person is able to ignore all their disdain and complete a series of tasks that ultimately complete an objective of leaving the house on time. Difficult tasks are made easier through the power of habit.

I have seen how morning habits, in particular, contribute to the day’s overall effectiveness. Knowing someone who wakes up at 4:00 am and witnessing it in person is evidence that the “Seize the day,” routine is the best way to be successful in work or school. The morning routine would be turn off the alarm and get out of the bedroom. This person would then go into the kitchen and make himself warm water or tea and drink it. Doing this does magic for him! The liquid wakes up his digestive and central nervous system. Whatever lack of energy there is, slowly goes away. This would happen a consistent 4-5 days a week. The results were impressive. Before I got out of bed for class at 9:00 am my roommate had returned already gone to the gym, finished analyzing some financial reports, and eaten.

In “The Golden Rule of Habit Change,” a case study of former NFL coach, Tony Dungy, is presented. Dungy was brought in as the head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the start of the 1996 season. He took over a Buccaneers team in 1996 that had suffered 12 double-digit loss seasons in the previous 13 years before his arrival. The fortunes of the franchise quickly changed under his leadership. By his second season, the team finished 10-6 and earned a playoff berth. Two seasons later, in 1999, the Bucs posted an 11-5 record and clinched the franchise’s first divisional title since 1981. After six seasons in Tampa Bay, that included four trips to the playoffs, Dungy was relieved of his duties.

What resonated most with me was the event where the team, the Buccaneers, were in a big moment and it slipped away from them. “We would practice, and everything would come together and then we’d get to a big game and it was like the training disappeared," Dungy told me. "Afterward, my players would say, "Well, it was a critical play and I went back to what I knew,' or 'I felt like I had to step it up.' What they really were saying was they trusted our system most of the time, but when everything was on the line, that belief broke down." (Duhigg, 81).

 

When I think about "The Power of Habit," I think about the phrase “History repeats itself.” One of the book’s main points that's inculcated in the reader’s mind is that our lives are distinctly governed and shaped by our habits. I couldn't agree more. Take for example this situation, it’s Monday morning of a work week and depending on if you love or hate your job, there are two ways your wake up/getting out of bed process can go. The first example is person A; person A hates his job and absolutely dreads the morning routine, but he/she sucks it up and does what they need to do to get ready for work. Next, there is person B; person B absolutely loves their job and brushes off any traces of exhaustion and readily begins his/her morning. 

I have seen how morning habits, in particular, contribute to the day’s overall effectiveness. Knowing someone who wakes up at 4:00 am and witnessing it in person is evidence that the “Seize the day,” routine is the best way to be successful in work or school. The morning routine would be turn off the alarm and get out of the bedroom. This person would then go into the kitchen and make himself warm water or tea and drink it. Doing this does wonders for him! The liquid wakes up his digestive and central nervous system. Whatever lack of energy there is, slowly goes away.

In “The Golden Rule of Habit Change,” a case study of former NFL coach, Tony Dungy, is presented. Dungy was brought in as the head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the start of the 1996 season. He took over a Buccaneers team in 1996 that had suffered 12 double-digit loss seasons in the previous 13 years before his arrival. The fortunes of the franchise quickly changed under his leadership. By his second season, the team finished 10-6 and earned a playoff berth. Two seasons later, in 1999, the Bucs posted an 11-5 record and clinched the franchise’s first divisional title since 1981. After six seasons in Tampa Bay, that included four trips to the playoffs, Dungy was relieved of his duties.

What resonated most with me was the event where the team, the Buccaneers, were in the big moment and it slipped away from them. “We would practice, and everything would come together and then we’d get to a big game and it was like the training disappeared,’ Dungy told me. "Afterward, my players would say, "Well, it was a critical play and I went back to what I knew,' or 'I felt like I had to step it up.' What they really were saying was they trusted our system most of the time, but when everything was on the line, that belief broke down." (Duhigg, 81).

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Tony Dungy pictured during his tenure with the Tampa Bay Bucs

When I read this, I felt like I had been in the players' shoes. I mean how often is it that we all feel like we need to make a big play, whether in work or in life? For me, this could be asking a girl out in a nerve-wracking conversation, trying to deliver last minute for my boss, or in any meaningful life moment that requires a lot of attention and effort. It's like I need a Michael Jordan moment here when instead "The Power of Habit" would argue that the best thing to do is trust your training and remain even-keeled.

The next couple of pages in the chapter explain one of the most important elements in changing habits. That's the notion of belief. "Belief was the ingredient that made a reworked habit loop into a permanent behavior." The text goes on to say, "Even if you give people better habits, it doesn't repair why they started drinking in the first place. Eventually, they'll have a bad day and no new routine is going to make everything seem okay. What can make a difference is believing that they can cope with that stress without alcohol." (Duhigg, 85).

Needless to say, belief goes a long way... I tend to work out semi-regularly meaning on a weekly average three times a  week. While the habit of working out can be created, I have not seen significant results. There has to be a belief in a higher purpose for working out. My general purpose of working out is to stay healthy, but I remember in college or perhaps a better example is high school track. In track and field, there was the belief, the fiction in my mind, about practicing for the team, school, and competition. There was a calling, opposed to just working out for small goals like health. A higher purpose focused on moments like a big meet that drives individuals to commit. That brings up the tale of Michael Phelps in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

When Phelps leapt into the swimming pool during the race he knew that something was wrong as soon as he hit the water. There was moisture inside his goggles. By the second turn and final lap, the cups of his goggles were completely filled. Phelps could not see anything. For most swimmers, losing your sight in the middle of an Olympic final would be cause for panic. However, Phelps was calm. Everything else that day had gone according to plan. (The leaking goggles were a minor deviation, but one for which he was prepared).

His swim coach had once made Phelps swim in a pool in the dark, believing that he needed to be ready for any surprise. As a result, Phelps was able to execute this on race day, the Olympics, where had already been mentally prepared for how he'd respond to a goggle failure. Phelps estimated how many strokes it would require -nineteen or twenty - and started counting. When he ripped off his goggles and looked up at the scoreboard, it said "WR" -a world record- next to his name.

This right here is the perfect example of the power of habit. Actions become second nature yielding positive results. He was so good that he swam fifty meters basically blind. This could be applied to business negotiations, other sports, or any pursuit. It just takes that level of commitment, discipline, and repetition.

Watch the video below for exact context on what The Power of Habit is referring to:

When I read this, I felt like I had been in the players' shoes. I mean how often is it that we all feel like we need to make a big play, whether in work or in life? For me, this could be asking a girl out in a nerve-wracking conversation, trying to deliver last minute for my boss, or in any meaningful life moment that requires a lot of attention and effort. It's like I need a Michael Jordan moment here when instead The Power of Habit would argue that the best thing to do is trust your training and remain even-keeled.

The next couple of pages in the chapter explain one of the most important elements in changing habits. That's the notion of belief. "Belief was the ingredient that made a reworked habit loop into a permanent behavior." The text goes on to say, "Even if you give people better habits, it doesn't repair why they started drinking in the first place. Eventually, they'll have a bad day and no new routine is going to make everything seem okay. What can make a difference is believing that they can cope with that stress without alcohol." (Duhigg, 85).

Needless to say, belief goes a long way... I tend to work out semi-regularly meaning on a weekly average three times a  week. While the habit of working out can be created, I have not seen significant results. There has to be belief in a higher purpose for working out. My general purpose of working out is to stay healthy, but I remember in high school track where there was the belief, the fiction in my mind, about practicing for the team, school, and competition. There was a calling there opposed to just working out for health. Perhaps, if I add living an extra 10 years or more self-confidence, I'd be more compelled to it. That brings up the tale of Michael Phelps in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Watch the video below for exact context on what The Power of Habit is referring to:

When I read this, I felt like I had been in the players' shoes. I mean how often is it that we all feel like we need to make a big play, whether in work or in life? For me, this could be asking a girl out in a nerve-wracking conversation, trying to deliver last minute for my boss, or in any meaningful life moment that requires a lot of attention and effort. It's like I needed a Michael Jordan moment here when instead The Power of Habit would argue that the best thing to do is trust your training and remain even-keeled.

The next couple of pages in the chapter explain one of the most important elements in changing habits. That's the notion of belief. "Belief was the ingredient that made a reworked habit loop into a permanent behavior." The text goes on to say, "Even if you give people better habits, it doesn't repair why they started drinking in the first place. Eventually, they'll have a bad day and no new routine is going to make everything seem okay. What can make a difference is believing that they can cope with that stress without alcohol." (Duhigg, 85).

Needless to say, belief goes a long way... I tend to work out semi-regularly meaning on a weekly average three times a  week. While the habit of working out can be created, I have not seen significant results. There has to be belief in a higher purpose for working out. My general purpose of working out is to stay healthy, but I remember in college or perhaps a better example is high school track. In track and field, there was the belief, the fiction in my mind, about practicing for the team, school, and competition. There was a calling there opposed to just working out for health. Perhaps, if I add living an extra 10 years or more self-confidence, I'd be more compelled to it. That brings up the tale of Michael Phelps in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Watch the video below to see Michael Phelps execute years of habit in beautiful fashion:

When small wins lead to Olympic Gold (2008 Summer Olympics)

Another significant point in habit turning is the keystone habit. The case study of Alcoa or the Aluminum Company of America describes a case where a struggling company hires a new CEO in hopes of turning its fortunes around. Paul O'Neill became Alcoa's new CEO in 1987 and had a tall task ahead of him. He was in charge of turning the company around from being notorious for worker injuries and hazards. Paul knew that if he could change Alcoa's safety reputation that workers would want to work there. What he did was as follows:

Cultures grow out of the keystone habits in every organization. An example of a keystone habit the text draws on is army cadets gathering daily to help find the strength to overcome obstacles. These daily meetings reinforce the cadet's overarching goal of seeing the training through the end. Somehow those initial shifts start chain reactions that help other good habits take hold. They help create small wins which in turn boost your overall motivation and give you some momentum to build even more habits in your life.

Keystone habits transform us by creating cultures that make clear the values that, in the heat of a difficult decision or a moment of uncertainty, we might forget otherwise. Ultimately, having keystone habits allow for having a foundation when needing to make an important decision.

What I Found Remarkable

Duhigg touches on an observation I've held onto for a while now. It's about how moments of crises can act as the catalyst for change in someone's life. Putting a couple of hundred dollars into options and losing it all can make someone feel the pain of being too naive when investing, in the end, experience is the best teacher. I say this because I did exactly that, put in about $500 into options for stocks that didn't pan out but I've learned from those experiences and have turned profits recently out of $46 to $116 on a call.

All those leaders seized the possibilities created by a crisis. During turmoil, organizational habits become malleable enough to both assign responsibility and create a more equitable balance of power. Crises are so valuable, in fact, that sometimes it's worth stirring up a sense of looming catastrophe rather than letting it die down. (Duhigg, 175).

Once a sense of crisis gripped Rhode Island Hospital, everyone became open to change. It took a patient or two losing their lives but once attention was drawn to the mistakes the doctors were making in not being open to help from the nurses. Good leaders seize crises to remake organizational habits. 

I am giving the book a high rating: 11/10 based off of the strength of its argument and in that it is well written with a strong proposition and tangible concrete case studies. If you are looking to read something that is relatable yet thought-provoking and informative, I'd suggest reading. Moreover, if you are searching for ideas on how to galvanize good habits and fix bad ones, The Power of Habit has answers.

"Be on the verge." - Dan of Bahia Verge

Another significant point in habit turning is the keystone habit. The case study of Alcoa or the Aluminum Company of America describes a case where a struggling company hires a new CEO in hopes of turning its fortunes around. Paul O'Neill became Alcoa's new CEO in 1987 and had a tall task ahead of him. He was in charge of turning the company around from being notorious for worker injuries and hazards. Paul knew that if he could change Alcoa's safety reputation that workers would want to work there. What he did was as follows:

Cultures grow out of the keystone habits in every organization. An example of a keystone habit the text draws on is army cadets gathering daily to help find the strength to overcome obstacles. These daily meetings reinforce the cadet's overarching goal of seeing the training through the end. Somehow those initial shifts start chain reactions that help other good habits take hold. They help create small wins which in turn boost your overall motivation and give you some momentum to build even more habits in your life.

Keystone habits transform us by creating cultures that make clear the values that, in the heat of a difficult decision or a moment of uncertainty, we might forget otherwise. Ultimately, having keystone habits allow for having a foundation when needing to make an important decision.

I am giving the book a high rating: 11/10 based off of the strength of its argument and in that it is well written with a strong proposition and tangible concrete case studies. If you are looking to read something that is relatable yet thought-provoking and informative, I'd suggest reading. Moreover, if you are searching for ideas on how to galvanize good habits and fix bad ones, The Power of Habit has answers.

"Be on the verge." - Dan of Bahia Verge

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