Powerful book in changing our lives through habits! Some concepts that I loved are:
- Golden rule of habit: Keep the cue and the reward, change the routine
- Keystone habit: Identify one habit that will have a overflow effect on changing other habits
- Willpower is like a muscle - grow it iteratively, conserve it when needed
New habits changes brain
Eventually she was recruited into the scientists’ study, and when researchers began examining images of Lisa’s brain, they saw something remarkable: One set of neurological patterns—her old habits—had been overridden by new patterns. They could still see the neural activity of her old behaviors, but those impulses were crowded out by new urges. As Lisa’s habits changed, so had her brain.
Everyone in the study had gone through a similar process. By focusing on one pattern—what is known as a “keystone habit”—Lisa had taught herself how to reprogram the other routines in her life, as well.
We are habits
One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.
Conscious choice to habit
It focuses on habits as they are technically defined: the choices that all of us deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about but continue doing, often every day. At one point, we all consciously decided how much to eat and what to focus on when we got to the office, how often to have a drink or when to go for a jog. Then we stopped making a choice, and the behavior became automatic. It’s a natural consequence of our neurology. And by understanding how it happens, you can rebuild those patterns in whichever way you choose.
Routines to habits
On the battlefield, every command that’s issued draws on behaviors practiced to the point of automation. The entire organization relies on endlessly rehearsed routines for building bases, setting strategic priorities, and deciding how to respond to attacks.
Food was a cue for riot
Iraqi police, sensing trouble, radioed the base and asked U.S. troops to stand by. At dusk, the crowd started getting restless and hungry. People looked for the kebab sellers normally filling the plaza, but there were none to be found. The spectators left. The chanters became dispirited. By 8 P.M., everyone was gone.
As he moved up the ranks, he learned the importance of organizational habits in ensuring that subordinates could make decisions without constantly asking permission, and how the right routines made it easier to work alongside people he normally couldn’t stand. And now, as an impromptu nation builder, he was seeing how crowds and cultures abided by many of the same rules.
Much improvement in the advancement of habits
In the past decade, our understanding of the neurology and psychology of habits and the way patterns work within our lives, societies, and organizations has expanded in ways we couldn’t have imagined fifty years ago. We now know why habits emerge, how they change, and the science behind their mechanics.
Primitive structures == automatic behaviours
Deeper inside the brain and closer to the brain stem—where the brain meets the spinal column—are older, more primitive structures. They control our automatic behaviors, such as breathing and swallowing, or the startle response we feel when someone leaps out from behind a bush.
How the brain optimises
The scientists repeated their experiment, again and again, watching how each rat’s brain activity changed as it moved through the same route hundreds of times. A series of shifts slowly emerged. The rats stopped sniffing corners and making wrong turns. Instead, they zipped through the maze faster and faster. And within their brains, something unexpected occurred: As each rat learned how to navigate the maze, its mental activity decreased. As the route became more and more automatic, each rat started thinking less and less.
Habits and brain
Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often.
Habits in 3 steps:
First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future:
Brain doesn’t work so hard
When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.
Brain doesn’t know if it is good or bad
The problem is that your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits, and so if you have a bad one, it’s always lurking there, waiting for the right cues and rewards.”
Brain and memory
Here was the proof Squire was looking for. The experiments demonstrated that Eugene had the ability to form new habits, even when they involved tasks or objects he couldn’t remember for more than a few seconds. This explained how Eugene managed to go for a walk every morning.
Changing cues changes behaviour
Squire’s new experiment also showed something else: that habits are surprisingly delicate. If Eugene’s cues changed the slightest bit, his habits fell apart. The few times he walked around the block, for instance, and something was different—the city was doing street repairs or a windstorm had blown branches all over the sidewalk—Eugene would get lost, no matter how close he was to home, until a kind neighbor showed him the way to his door.
habits are powerful
Habits are powerful, but delicate. They can emerge outside our consciousness, or can be deliberately designed. They often occur without our permission, but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts. They shape our lives far more than we realize—they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.
Look for cue and reward and change the routine
Even small shifts can end the pattern. But since we often don’t recognize these habit loops as they grow, we are blind to our ability to control them. By learning to observe the cues and rewards, though, we can change the routines.
This explains why habits are so powerful: They create neurological cravings. Most of the time, these cravings emerge so gradually that we’re not really aware they exist, so we’re often blind to their influence. But as we associate cues with certain rewards, a subconscious craving emerges in our brains that starts the habit loop spinning.
Continuing is a habit
What they found was that many of them had started running or lifting weights almost on a whim, or because they suddenly had free time or wanted to deal with unexpected stresses in their lives. However, the reason they continued—why it became a habit — was because of a specific reward they started to crave.
Reward of shampooing is foaming!
“Foaming is a huge reward,” said Sinclair, the brand manager. “Shampoo doesn’t have to foam, but we add foaming chemicals because people expect it each time they wash their hair. Same thing with laundry detergent. And toothpaste—now every company adds sodium laureth sulfate to make toothpaste foam more.
Identify the cravings!
Cravings are what drive habits. And figuring out how to spark a craving makes creating a new habit easier. It’s as true now as it was almost a century ago. Every night, millions of people scrub their teeth in order to get a tingling feeling; every morning, millions put on their jogging shoes to capture an endorphin rush they’ve learned to crave.
Stop thinking, react automatically
In his job interviews, he would patiently explain his belief that the key to winning was changing players’ habits. He wanted to get players to stop making so many decisions during a game, he said. He wanted them to react automatically, habitually. If he could instill the right habits, his team would win. Period.
Difference between extraordinary things and normally
“Champions don’t do extraordinary things,” Dungy would explain. “They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.”
Changing habits is better than creating new habits
So rather than creating new habits, Dungy was going to change players’ old ones. And the secret to changing old habits was using what was already inside players’ heads. Habits are a three-step loop—the cue, the routine, and the reward—but Dungy only wanted to attack the middle step, the routine. He knew from experience that it was easier to convince someone to adopt a new behavior if there was something familiar at the beginning and end.
How to change habit: Golden rule of habit
Rather, to change a habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine. That’s the rule: 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.
Awareness training on what are the triggers
Asking patients to describe what triggers their habitual behavior is called awareness training, and like AA’s insistence on forcing alcoholics to recognize their cues, it’s the first step in habit reversal training. The tension that Mandy felt in her nails cued her nail biting habit.
Nail biting and awareness training
At the end of their first session, the therapist sent Mandy home with an assignment: Carry around an index card, and each time you feel the cue—a tension in your fingertips—make a check mark on the card. She came back a week later with twenty-eight checks. She was, by that point, acutely aware of the sensations that preceded her habit.
A week later, Mandy had bitten her nails only three times and had used the competing response seven times. She rewarded herself with a manicure, but kept using the note cards. After a month, the nail-biting habit was gone. The competing routines had become automatic. One habit had replaced another.
Nail biting and routine
And its techniques lay bare one of the fundamental principles of habits: Often, we don’t really understand the cravings driving our behaviors until we look for them. Mandy never realized that a craving for physical stimulation was causing her nail biting, but once she dissected the habit, it became easy to find a new routine that provided the same reward.
Mess up when they think too much
However, perfection is hard to achieve in football. “Every play in football—every play—someone messes up,” said Herm Edwards, one of Dungy’s assistant coaches in Tampa Bay. “Most of the time, it’s not physical. It’s mental.” Players mess up when they start thinking too much or second-guessing their plays.
Believe that you can change
It wasn’t God that mattered, the researchers figured out. It was belief itself that made a difference. Once people learned how to believe in something, that skill started spilling over to other parts of their lives, until they started believing they could change. Belief was the ingredient that made a reworked habit loop into a permanent behavior.
Believe that things you can get better!
belief seems critical. You don’t have to believe in God, but you do need the capacity to believe that things will get better.
Back to old habits
Even as Dungy’s successes mounted, however, the same troubling patterns emerged. The Colts would play a season of disciplined, winning football, and then under play-off pressure, choke. “Belief is the biggest part of success in professional football,” Dungy told me. “The team wanted to believe, but when things got really tense, they went back to their comfort zones and old habits.”
Social groups change you
Just as frequently, however, there was no tragedy that preceded people’s transformations. Rather, they changed because they were embedded in social groups that made change easier. One woman said her entire life shifted when she signed up for a psychology class and met a wonderful group. “It opened a Pandora’s box,” the woman told researchers. “I could not tolerate the status quo any longer. I had changed in my core.”
Change occurs when you see others are also doing it
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. One woman told researchers her life transformed after a day spent cleaning toilets—and after weeks of discussing with the rest of the cleaning crew whether she should leave her husband. “Change occurs among other people,” one of the psychologists involved in the study, Todd Heatherton, told me. “It seems real when we can see it in other people’s eyes.”
Golden Rule of Habit
We know that a habit cannot be eradicated—it must, instead, be replaced. And we know that habits are most malleable when the Golden Rule of habit change is applied: If we keep the same cue and the same reward, a new routine can be inserted.
Safety habit instead of profits
I intend to make Alcoa the safest company in America. I intend to go for zero injuries.” The audience was confused. These meetings usually followed a predictable script: A new CEO would start with an introduction, make a faux self-deprecating joke—something about how he slept his way through Harvard Business School—then promise to boost profits and lower costs.
One keystone habit: Safety
So how did O’Neill make one of the largest, stodgiest, and most potentially dangerous companies into a profit machine and a bastion of safety? By attacking one habit and then watching the changes ripple through the organization.
Focus on one habit to change: Keystone habit
“But you can’t order people to change. That’s not how the brain works. So I decided I was going to start by focusing on one thing. If I could start disrupting the habits around one thing, it would spread throughout the entire company.”
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.
Routines for organisation
Researchers have found institutional habits in almost every organization or company they’ve scrutinized. “Individuals have habits; groups have routines,” wrote the academic Geoffrey Hodgson, who spent a career examining organizational patterns. “Routines are the organizational analogue of habits.”
One single focussed universal goal for the organisation
“I went to basics,” he told me. “Everyone deserves to leave work as safely as they arrive, right? You shouldn’t be scared that feeding your family is going to kill you. That’s what I decided to focus on: changing everyone’s safety habits.” At the top of O’Neill’s list he wrote down “SAFETY” and set an audacious goal: zero injuries. Not zero factory injuries. Zero injuries, period. That would be his commitment no matter how much it cost.
Keystone goal flows over to processes and education
The key to protecting Alcoa employees, O’Neill believed, was understanding why injuries happened in the first place. And to understand why injuries happened, you had to study how the manufacturing process was going wrong. To understand how things were going wrong, you had to bring in people who could educate workers about quality control and the most efficient work processes, so that it would be easier to do everything right, since correct work is also safer work. In other words, to protect workers, Alcoa needed to become the best, most streamlined aluminum company on earth.
Tying organisation cue, routine and reward
He identified a simple cue: an employee injury. He instituted an automatic routine: Any time someone was injured, the unit president had to report it to O’Neill within twenty-four hours and present a plan for making sure the injury never happened again. And there was a reward: The only people who got promoted were those who embraced the system.
Building corporate habits
To make all of that happen, each unit had to build new communication systems that made it easier for the lowliest worker to get an idea to the loftiest executive, as fast as possible. Almost everything about the company’s rigid hierarchy had to change to accommodate O’Neill’s safety program. He was building new corporate habits.
Safety habits spilling into other parts
The company shifted so much that some employees found safety habits spilling into other parts of their lives.
Side effects on implementing safety
O’Neill never promised that his focus on worker safety would increase Alcoa’s profits. However, as his new routines moved through the organization, costs came down, quality went up, and productivity skyrocketed.
Good habits spilling over
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.
Identity keystone habits
If you focus on changing or cultivating keystone habits, you can cause widespread shifts. However, identifying keystone habits is tricky. To find them, you have to know where to look. Detecting keystone habits means searching out certain characteristics. Keystone habits offer what is known within academic literature as “small wins.” They help other habits to flourish by creating new structures, and they establish cultures where change becomes contagious.
Training of Phelps
All he needed to do was target a few specific habits that had nothing to do with swimming and everything to do with creating the right mind-set.
Small wins are exactly what they sound like, and are part of how keystone habits create widespread changes. A huge body of research has shown that small wins have enormous power, an influence disproportionate to the accomplishments of the victories themselves.
Small wins to beliefs
Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.
“I want to congratulate everyone for bringing down the number of accidents, even just for two weeks,” he wrote in a memo that made its way through the entire company. “We shouldn’t celebrate because we’ve followed the rules, or brought down a number. We should celebrate because we are saving lives.”
Create education for good nutrition
But to stop malnourishment, women had to improve their diets before they became pregnant. Which meant the government had to start educating women about nutrition before they became sexually active. Which meant officials had to create nutrition curriculums inside high schools.
Radical change is difficult to sustain
until about twenty years ago, conventional wisdom held that the best way for people to lose weight was to radically alter their lives… But when researchers studied the effectiveness of these methods over prolonged periods, they discovered they were failures. Patients would use the stairs for a few weeks, but by the end of the month, it was too much hassle. They began diets and joined gyms, but after the initial burst of enthusiasm wore off, they slid back into their old eating and TV-watching habits.
Slowly, however, people started recording their meals once a week—and sometimes, more often. Many participants started keeping a daily food log. Eventually, it became a habit. Then, something unexpected happened. The participants started looking at their entries and finding patterns they didn’t know existed. Some noticed they always seemed to snack at about 10 A.M., so they began keeping an apple or banana on their desks for midmorning munchies.
Tiny self-directed changes
The researchers hadn’t suggested any of these behaviors. They had simply asked everyone to write down what they ate once a week. But this keystone habit—food journaling—created a structure that helped other habits to flourish. Six months into the study, people who kept daily food records had lost twice as much weight as everyone else.
This is the final way that keystone habits encourage widespread change: by creating cultures where new values become ingrained. Keystone habits make tough choices—such as firing a top executive—easier, because when that person violates the culture, it’s clear they have to go.
The training has, Travis says, changed his life. Starbucks has taught him how to live, how to focus, how to get to work on time, and how to master his emotions. Most crucially, it has taught him willpower. “Starbucks is the most important thing that has ever happened to me,” he told me. “I owe everything to this company.”
At the core of that education is an intense focus on an all-important habit: willpower. Dozens of studies show that willpower is the single most important keystone habit for individual success.
Self-discipline more important than talent
“Highly self-disciplined adolescents outperformed their more impulsive peers on every academic-performance variable,” the researchers wrote. “Self-discipline predicted academic performance more robustly than did IQ. Self-discipline also predicted which students would improve their grades over the course of the school year, whereas IQ did not.… Self-discipline has a bigger effect on academic performance than does intellectual talent.”
Training involving discipline
Unless baristas are trained to put aside their personal problems, the emotions of some employees will inevitably spill into how they treat customers. However, if a worker knows how to remain focused and disciplined, even at the end of an eight-hour shift, they’ll deliver the higher class of fast food service that Starbucks customers expect.
Other days, when he was tired, he raided the vending machines and stuffed himself with candy and chips. If willpower is a skill, Muraven wondered, then why doesn’t it remain constant from day to day? He suspected there was more to willpower than the earlier experiments had revealed. But how do you test that in a laboratory?
Willpower is like a muscle
Willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things.”
Do the most important things at the start
Some have suggested it helps clarify why otherwise successful people succumb to extramarital affairs (which are most likely to start late at night after a long day of using willpower at work) or why good physicians make dumb mistakes (which most often occur after a doctor has finished a long, complicated task that requires intense focus).
Conserve willpower for the toughest work
“If you want to do something that requires willpower—like going for a run after work—you have to conserve your willpower muscle during the day,” Muraven told me. “If you use it up too early on tedious tasks like writing emails or filling out complicated and boring expense forms, all the strength will be gone by the time you get home.”
Work iteratively to strengthen willpower
As people strengthened their willpower muscles in one part of their lives—in the gym, or a money management program—that strength spilled over into what they ate or how hard they worked. Once willpower became stronger, it touched everything.
Disciplining yourself to sit and practice
“That’s why signing kids up for piano lessons or sports is so important. It has nothing to do with creating a good musician or a five-year-old soccer star,” said Heatherton. “When you learn to force yourself to practice for an hour or run fifteen laps, you start building self-regulatory strength. A five-year-old who can follow the ball for ten minutes becomes a sixth grader who can start his homework on time.”
the Gap, Walmart, restaurants, or any other business that relies on entry-level workers—all face a common problem: No matter how much their employees want to do a great job, many will fail because they lack self-discipline. They show up late. They snap at rude customers. They get distracted or drawn into workplace dramas. They quit for no reason.
The patients who had written plans in their booklets had started walking almost twice as fast as the ones who had not. They had started getting in and out of their chairs, unassisted, almost three times as fast. They were putting on their shoes, doing the laundry, and making themselves meals quicker than the patients who hadn’t scribbled out goals ahead of time.
Design willpower by writing it down
But the patients who didn’t write out any plans were at a significant disadvantage, because they never thought ahead about how to deal with painful inflection points. They never deliberately designed willpower habits.
Starbucks LATTE method
“One of the systems we use is called the LATTE method. We Listen to the customer, Acknowledge their complaint, Take action by solving the problem, Thank them, and then Explain why the problem occurred.
Prepare from before
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.
Decide ahead of time
they decided ahead of time how to react to a cue—a painful muscle or an angry customer. When the cue arrived, the routine occurred.
Personal ownership is important in willpower
“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. In both cases, people ignored the cookies. But when the students were treated like cogs, rather than people, it took a lot more willpower.”
Creating ownership to create willpower
Today, the company is focused on giving employees a greater sense of authority. They have asked workers to redesign how espresso machines and cash registers are laid out, to decide for themselves how customers should be greeted and where merchandise should be displayed. It’s not unusual for a store manager to spend hours discussing with his employees where a blender should be located.
Value of routines
Routines provide the hundreds of unwritten rules that companies need to operate. They allow workers to experiment with new ideas without having to ask for permission at every step. They provide a kind of “organizational memory,” so that managers don’t have to reinvent the sales process every six months or panic each time a VP quits.
Just focus on your job?
Yet thirty-one people died. The London Underground’s routines and truces all seemed logical until a fire erupted. At which point, an awful truth emerged: No one person, department, or baron had ultimate responsibility for passengers’ safety.
Crisis is an opportunity for changing corporate habits and routines
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.
Changing organisation in crises
Good leaders seize crises to remake organizational habits. NASA administrators, for instance, tried for years to improve the agency’s safety habits, but those efforts were unsuccessful until the space shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986. In the wake of that tragedy, the organization was able to overhaul how it enforced quality standards.
How change can occur swiftly after a crisis
He concluded with pages and pages of stinging criticisms and recommendations that, essentially, suggested much of the organization was either incompetent or corrupt. The response was instantaneous and overwhelming. Commuters picketed the Underground’s offices. The organization’s leadership was fired. A slew of new laws were passed and the culture of the Underground was overhauled. Today, every station has a manager whose primary responsibility is passenger safety, and every employee has an obligation to communicate at the smallest hint of risk. All the trains still run on time.
Everyone is empowered
But the Underground’s habits and truces have adjusted just enough to make it clear who has ultimate responsibility for fire prevention, and everyone is empowered to act, regardless of whose toes they might step on.
Even nurse has equal say during pre-operation checlist
“Doctor,” the twenty-seven-year-old Ward said, “I want to remind everyone that we have to pause before the first and second procedures. You didn’t mention that, and I just want to make sure we remember.” It was the type of comment that, a few years ago, might have earned her a rebuke. Or ended her career. “Thanks for adding that,” the surgeon said. “I’ll remember to mention it next time. “Okay,” he said, “let’s start.”
Buying habits change during major life events
What he discovered has become a pillar of modern marketing theory: People’s buying habits are more likely to change when they go through a major life event. When someone gets married, for example, they’re more likely to start buying a new type of coffee. When they move into a new house, they’re more apt to purchase a different kind of cereal. When they get divorced, there’s a higher chance they’ll start buying different brands of beer.
Arrival of a child - biggest life change
And what’s the biggest life event for most people? What causes the greatest disruption and “vulnerability to marketing interventions”? Having a baby. There’s almost no greater upheaval for most customers than the arrival of a child.
Familiar songs are better than new songs!
“But when it comes on the radio, your subconscious says, ‘I know this song! I’ve heard it a million times! I can sing along!’ Sticky songs are what you expect to hear on the radio. Your brain secretly wants that song, because it’s so familiar to everything else you’ve already heard and liked. It just sounds right.” … > “It’s textbook playlist theory now,” said Tom Webster, a radio consultant. “Play a new song between two consensus popular hits.”
Use camouflage for acceptance
In all, more than two hundred studies were eventually published, and at their core, they all contained a similar finding: To change people’s diets, the exotic must be made familiar. And to do that, you must camouflage it in everyday garb.
Already liked songs
“Stations have to take risks on new songs, otherwise people stop listening. But what listeners really want are songs they already like. So you have to make new songs seem familiar as fast as possible.”
Easier public acceptance
Whether selling a new song, a new food, or a new crib, the lesson is the same: If you dress a new something in old habits, it’s easier for the public to accept it.
Movements grow with weak ties
A movement starts because of the social habits of friendship and the strong ties between close acquaintances. It grows because of the habits of a community, and the weak ties that hold neighborhoods and clans together. And it endures because a movement’s leaders give participants new habits that create a fresh sense of identity and a feeling of ownership.
We are the average of 5 people who we mix most with
In general, sociologists say, most of us have friends who are like us. We might have a few close acquaintances who are richer, a few who are poorer, and a few of different races—but, on the whole, our deepest relationships tend to be with people who look like us, earn about the same amount of money, and come from similar backgrounds.
Rosa Parks and the community of movement
The first mass movement of the modern civil rights era could have been sparked by any number of earlier arrests. But it began with Rosa Parks because she had a large, diverse, and connected set of friends—who, when she was arrested, reacted as friends naturally respond, by following the social habits of friendship and agreeing to show their support.
Power of weak ties
Granovetter called those connections “weak ties,” because they represented the links that connect people who have acquaintances in common, who share membership in social networks, but aren’t directly connected by the strong ties of friendship themselves. In fact, in landing a job, Granovetter discovered, weak-tie acquaintances were often more important than strong-tie friends because weak ties give us access to social networks where we don’t otherwise belong.
How news / gossips / opinions travel…
When sociologists have examined how opinions move through communities, how gossip spreads or political movements start, they’ve discovered a common pattern: Our weak-tie acquaintances are often as influential—if not more—than our close-tie friends.
Weak ties and social obligations
The habits of peer pressure, however, have something in common. They often spread through weak ties. And they gain their authority through communal expectations. If you ignore the social obligations of your neighborhood, if you shrug off the expected patterns of your community, you risk losing your social standing. You endanger your access to many of the social benefits that come from joining the country club, the alumni association, or the church in the first place.
Strong ties + weak ties together
Such peer pressure, on its own, isn’t enough to sustain a movement. But when the strong ties of friendship and the weak ties of peer pressure merge, they create incredible momentum. That’s when widespread social change can begin.
Once he finished, he finally had an answer as to why some students went to Mississippi, and others stayed home: because of social habits—or more specifically, because of the power of strong and weak ties working in tandem. The students who participated in Freedom Summer were enmeshed in the types of communities where both their close friends and their casual acquaintances expected them to get on the bus. Those who withdrew were also enmeshed in communities, but of a different kind—the kind where the social pressures and habits didn’t compel them to go to Mississippi.
Religion and groups
Most important, McGavran said, ministers needed to convert groups of people, rather than individuals, so that a community’s social habits would encourage religious participation, rather than pulling people away.
Habits of faith
And at the core of his church’s growth and his success is a fundamental belief in the power of social habits. “We’ve thought long and hard about habitualizing faith, breaking it down into pieces,” Warren told me. “If you try to scare people into following Christ’s example, it’s not going to work for too long. The only way you get people to take responsibility for their spiritual maturity is to teach them habits of faith.
This is the third aspect of how social habits drive movements: For an idea to grow beyond a community, it must become self-propelling. And the surest way to achieve that is to give people new habits that help them figure out where to go on their own.
Terrorism or peace - same incentive: ownership
Embedded within King’s philosophy was a set of new behaviors that converted participants from followers into self-directing leaders. These are not habits as we conventionally think about them. However, when King recast Montgomery’s struggle by giving protesters a new sense of self-identity, the protest became a movement fueled by people who were acting because they had taken ownership of a historic event.
And in the past decade, as our understanding of the neurology of habits and free will has become more sophisticated, those defenses have become more compelling. Society, as embodied by our courts and juries, has agreed that some habits are so powerful that they overwhelm our capacity to make choices, and thus we’re not responsible for what we do.
Gamble was a near miss, non-gambler was a loss!
“But what was really interesting were the near misses. To pathological gamblers, near misses looked like wins. Their brains reacted almost the same way. But to a nonpathological gambler, a near miss was like a loss. People without a gambling problem were better at recognizing that a near miss means you still lose.”
Automatic behaviours are our truest self
“Some thinkers,” Aristotle wrote in Nicomachean Ethics, “hold that it is by nature that people become good, others that it is by habit, and others that it is by instruction.” For Aristotle, habits reigned supreme. The behaviors that occur unthinkingly are the evidence of our truest selves, he said.
Change with habits
But every habit, no matter its complexity, is malleable. The most addicted alcoholics can become sober. The most dysfunctional companies can transform themselves. A high school dropout can become a successful manager.
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—
How a new habit becomes permanent
Later, he would famously write that the will to believe is the most important ingredient in creating belief in change. And that one of the most important methods for creating that belief was habits. Habits, he noted, are what allow us to “do a thing with difficulty the first time, but soon do it more and more easily, and finally, with sufficient practice, do it semi-mechanically, or with hardly any consciousness at all.”
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.”
Bring awareness to our habits
The water is habits, the unthinking choices and invisible decisions that surround us every day—and which, just by looking at them, become visible again.
Exposure + habit change
Everyone goes through periods when we know we need to change. Studies, however, tell us that simply knowing often isn’t enough. Sometimes it takes something else—exposure to the right idea, hearing stories that resonate in our own lives, a certain kind of encouragement—that makes the first step feel within reach.
Weighing every morning
I would weigh myself every morning. And because I weighed so much, minor changes—like a piece of fruit instead of a Danish—had a small but pretty quick impact. And when I saw those first few pounds disappear, there was this immediate sense of excitement like, wow, I’m really doing something.
People who successfully maintain weight loss typically eat breakfast every morning. They also weigh themselves each day. Part of the reason why these habits matter is practical: Eating a healthy breakfast makes it less likely you will snack later in the day, according to studies. And frequently measuring your weight allows us—sometimes almost subconsciously—to see how changing our diets influences the pounds lost.
Small wins make us stick
The small win of dropping even half a pound can provide the dose of momentum we need to stick with a diet. We need to see small victories to believe a long battle will be won.
planning for relapse
This raises another interesting point: No matter how strong our willpower, we’re guaranteed to fall back into our old ways once in a while. But if we plan for those relapses—if we take steps to make sure those slips don’t become a habit—it’s easier to get back on track.
Focus on changing just one habit
That’s what I had learned: You need to overhaul your life. And I figured I could do the same thing. But I realized that I needed to focus on one thing at a time. Smoking was my keystone habit. If I wanted to quit, I had to approach the problem like a scientist and do experiments and focus on just one thing: giving up cigarettes. I even posted a little note on my mirror: “Focus on changing your keystone habit.” That’s it.
Life hack reports on personal habit experiments
We used the ideas in the book to create weekly “life-hack reports,” where students look at what they’re doing, choose one goal they want to reach, and try modifying one aspect of their habits to see what happens next.
And the reason this works is because they own everything in the process: which habits to hack, how, how often, and when to stop modifying them and move on, so they are very invested in the results.
But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped. THE FRAMEWORK: • Identify the routine • Experiment with rewards • Isolate the cue • Have a plan