Dec 20, 2017
I just finished The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. It’s been on my reading list for a long while, but I finally picked it up on a flight to a conference (traveling is often my catalyst to dig in to new books). I’m really glad I did.
I’ve always struggled with building habits. I chalked it up to having a creative mind — that it’s impossible to form habits AND be a creative person. I needed spontaneity and unstructured play. Or, so I thought.
When I started my career as a designer, effectively honing my skills for business applications, I realized my lack of structure was becoming a downfall. I was bad at keeping a calendar. I was bad at being present in meetings. I rejected such organization because I felt it hindered my creative mind.
As I progressed in my career, I learned the importance of habit and routine. Having daily or weekly check-ins with clients and management built trust among us. Regularly meeting with co-workers to plan and tackle issues was necessary to make our collective effort more impactful. Creativity in the workplace needed guideposts to make sure everyone was working toward the same goal.
I determined I had already formed some habits, but they were not serving me well. I knew I needed better habits, but I was struggling to effectively instill them into my life.
"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."
I still struggle with this, but now I see a way forward — a way to incrementally establish habits that support me in my best professional and personal life. This clarity arose from reading The Power of Habit.
The book has had a profound effect on me, because it doesn’t just cover why habits are important, but how folks build new, better habits. This happens little by little, while still making mistakes, steadfastly sticking to the structure and routines that serve them well.
"First, find a simple and obvious cue. Second, clearly define the rewards."
Duhigg dives into the psychology of habits and why humans get stuck in bad ones. He tells cautionary tales of the bad habits formed by alcoholics, gamblers, overeaters, and failed companies. Then he explores what is behind habit formation, how we can effectively understand habits and the work we can do to replace them.
"…[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."
I’ve begun to reframe my thinking about habits. I didn’t miraculously change ALL my bad habits the moment I finished the book, but I’ve made incremental changes. I’ve begun to better understand my own habits and habit formation.
Changing habits starts with understanding. This book has truly given me a way to observe and understand my habits in a productive way. I’m really excited to apply what I’ve learned to managing Voxable. I know that wrangling our organizational habits will help us grow in a healthy way.
"The best agencies understood the importance of routines. The worst agencies were headed by people who never thought about it, and then wondered why no one followed their orders.
And almost always, they are the products of thoughtlessness, of leaders who avoid thinking about the culture and so let it develop without guidance."
I recommend The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business to anyone who is looking to unlock what’s stopping them from building good habits.