If you’re committed to becoming a better Dad, husband and man in general, harnessing the power of habit is going to be an important part of your journey.
If you’re going to change your habits for the better you need to understand them. How do habits form? How can they become negative and how do we break the cycle that is the habit loop?
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change by Charles Duhigg will give you the knowledge of how habits form and how to break the bad and keep the good.
Charles Duhigg is a journalist and author. His books have sold thousands of copies worldwide and his self help title Smarter Better Faster – The Secret to Being More Productive became an instant classic. His website contains a wealth of supporting information and is worth checking out.
By the time you’ve finished this book, you’ll know:
How to understand how habits form and self-perpetuate
How habits have been used for good by sports people and business leaders
How habits can come to control our behaviour and allow us to be controlled by other people
And much more
The Power of Habit is a well written and entertaining book on a fairly weighty subject. I was able to put much of the theory into practice right away and I enjoyed listening (I bought this with my Audible subscription) to the clear narration while on my daily commute. Much of the material is from primary sources that Duhigg interviewed himself which gives a real authenticity to his writing.
The Habit Loop and Compulsive Behaviour
The central theory of the book is the Habit Loop. I already referred to the habit loop in my previous post on the destructiveness of pornography. The habit loop, which was discovered by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) consists of three steps which work in cycle. These are:
This loop can apply to anything that becomes habitual in your life – even brushing your teeth (this is examined in detail in the book).
This diagram shows the habit loop and how it creates a cycle of behaviour:
This habit loop can quickly create behaviour that could be something mundane like visiting the same coffee shop in the morning to more destructive habits like hard drinking and alcoholism.
Breaking Negative Habits
The key to breaking negative habits, according to the research, is replacing the destructive ‘routine’ with something less destructive.
The example of the success of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is given whereby recovering alcoholics exchange their old destructive habits for new, beneficial habits such as attending regular meetings, prayer and meditation and developing a mentoring relationship with another recovering addict.
This breakage of the habit loop could apply to anything in your life that is destructive. Pornography is a good example, but what about other things like smoking or buying a chocolate bar every time you buy petrol.
Instead of chocolate, you could buy a bag of dried fruit and nuts to satisfy the cue you are feeling (hungry, bored, attracted by the chocolate display that always sits near the tills).
The Power of Habit: Building up Positive Habits
The book is called The Power of Habit. Power can be used for good or for bad (ask any Despot or Dictator). The power of habit can be harnessed to make you a better Dad.
Take the gym as an obvious example. My cue for going to the gym is that I like going. I actually like going so much that I feel like I need to go. I know that when I go, I’ll feel relaxed and zoned in on my workout.
I like the feel of the weights, the thumping hip-hop music and the cold shock of water from the cooler.
The routine is the workout itself. It’s pleasurable in itself, but the reward is much better.
The reward is two-fold. First there’s the pump. If you’ve never had a pump at the gym before, you’re missing out. It’s a bit like a drug. After a while, you crave it. It feels incredible as your skin tightens, your muscles and veins bulge and, for a brief period, you become the muscle-monster of your dreams.
This passes quickly and is followed by multiple trips to the bathroom. But a while after this is the feeling of satisfaction – that you worked your body to it’s limit, lifted heavy stuff and looked like a Bad-Ass-Dad in the process.
Conclusion: Use the Power of Habit Defensively and Offensively
If you only used this book defensively – i.e. to overcome bad habits – you’d be missing out on 50% of the benefits.
Unleashing the power of habit into your life to become a better Dad through training, cleaner eating, and more productive habits like writing, reading or starting a sideline business is more than possible.
Once you start to examine the habits in your life in the context of the MIT habit loop, you’ll be in a position to examine your habits, change the bad and form the good.
P.S. Liked this? Check out my review of Gorilla Mindset by Mike Cernovich – it provides loads of practical advice on how to change your mindset, lifestyle, habits and much more.
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