In last one and half years, I read more than 15 books including hard copies, E-books and audiobooks. Most of the books are recommended by my friends and successful people I have been following online. As most books are/were on New York Time best sellers list, they all deliver invaluable information in their unique ways, I really couldn’t tell which one is the best, but there are so far only two books I ever planned to read for the second time, because the concepts and resources in this two books worth me spending more time to look into greater detail and apply into my life carefully. Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business, written by Mr. Charles Duhigg, is one of them.
My favorite from the book is the way the author delivers the facts and his ideas, not like many other books I read previously, there is no BSing at all. Any fact using in this book is supported by materials and results of researches, surveys from educational institutions. The conclusions are purely objective, which I respect the most, so I have 100% confidence to apply the principle introduced from this book to my life, which you can see my track record under the section, “Record of my Habit” of my blog starting from Jan 14, 2013.
Why read this book
First of all, why did I read this book? To live a better life. Sounds cheesy, well, let me get into more details. If you read my story, you will probably understand a lot bit more. I failed many times in my life, to summarize my failures, I found something in common – it’s so easy for me to give up on something. With this kind of weakness, no matter how often I set up goals and how pretty my plans are, I can’t see my “independent day” very soon. Therefore I took some time to think about it deeply and decided to take actions, however I still did not have any idea how to keep up my hard work until I read this book.
I am a very honest person, so I am not going to make up a story saying how smart I am to pick up this story – I came across this book with a complete random opportunity. My wife bought the book from Chapters (a local book store in Canada) and read the first chapter. She told me this book was boring and stopped reading it. By the time, I was just about finishing a book named Outliers (written by Mr. Malcolm Gladwell.) The Outbliers book impresses me with the idea about a 10,000 hour rule. Basically Outliers book is telling the readers hard work matters the most to 99% of the success in the world. Again it reminds me the importance of consistency. Because of this, as soon as I saw the title, The power of Habit, I was curious to know what it is talking about.
At the beginning I thought it was going to be book talking about how to form good habits, but in fact it was not about that at all. How to do and what to do with habits are still completely up to each reader. By the end of the day, it’s the action takers who can make change in their lives. This book handed you a sharpened weapon to fight with yourself though.
I would estimate more than 60% of the contents of this book are actually describing the process of different experiments and surveys – which I bet the reason lots of readers find out this book is boring (My wife is one of them), however the best part, the results of the experiments will not make any sense if why and how the experiments and surveys conducted are not explained clearly enough. Therefore I will suggest to read the book one case study at a time – not to rush through the whole book, otherwise the chance you feel bored will be higher and you might miss this great chance to change your life.
How the book can help readers
Before I go into the details of this book, I want to give some reasons people should pay more attentions to Habits. To use a quote from Mr. Charles Duhigg in this book, “Once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom -and the responsibility – to remake them.” And also to those who have the confidence to make changes in life, “If you believe you can change – if you make it a habit – the change becomes real. This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be.”
Staying unknown is definitely not a solution to a problem, but sadly that is a way people use the most to deal with problems in their lives. I was working in the finical industry, so I will use financial planning as an example here. The sad truth is, less than 20% of the people living in Canada actually planned their life financially before retirement. To a professional working in financial industry, this is extremely dangerous. To even surprize me further, about 10% of the population reply their retirement income on winning a lottery. These facts lead more and more tragedies. The common excuses used by people are the following:
- I don’t have time. I am busy with family and my personal life
- I am not good at number. I don’t have the knowledge
- My neighbor is a financial geek, I usually ask his opinion on the stock market…
Well, well, well. Excuses are beautiful and perfect, but if you do not make effort to understand and manage your financial affairs, you think they will take care themselves for you with magic power. No way! You say you love your family, but if you are not even sure if they have enough money to buy foods for next 10-20 years, give me a break!Therefore to understand how habits are working is equal to take control of our lives and not let life control us.
The book is divided into three parts, the habits of individuals, the habits of successful organizations and the habits of societies. I am benefited a lot from the first two parts as a person, a Dad and a husband, and a business owner.
The simple neurological loop used in this book is “The habit loop” as showing in the following picture. There are 3 components in this loop:
- The cue can be a location, a time, an emotional state, other people or an immediate preceding action, which is the starting point of a habit;
- The routine is the process including a series of actions Involved in the habit;
- The reward is the goal or reason of the habit.
To explain this loop better, I will use one of my habits as an example by identifying each component. I brush and floss my teeth twice every day. The cue of this habit is the time. Every morning, as soon as I get up from bed and get dressed, I want to brush my teeth. The routine is always like this: I will first check if my son is up and dressed, if not, I will wait for him to get ready or help wake him up if he is still in bed. We both walk into washroom together, brush and floss teeth side by side. The reward is the fresh feeling I will get from it and also the healthy teeth in both of my son’s and my mouth for our lives.
How this book changed my life (ongoing)
Above is just a simple example. Same idea can be applied to any kind of habits. The key to understand this loop is to help form good habits and change bad habits. In the rest of this post, I am going to share my own experience since I read and understand this book from Jan 14, 2013.
To continue my story, as soon as I understand the loop and how habits work with the result of the experiments mentioned in the book, I started new plans and my goal is not to make another plan, instead it’s going to be the plan to change my life.
To form good habits.
To start, I think of 5 good habits to build up my confident and consistency. After spending nearly 18 months to shift my mindset, I have had a very strong belief on my life goal, which is to give financial freedom to myself and my family and help more families like mine to reach financial freedom. Altogether we can the world better place to live. The five new good habits I choose are:
1) Brush and Floss teeth: to improve the health of teeth for my little boy and me
2) Abs exercise: avoid adding size to my waist (for a person sitting in front of the computer for a long time every day, this is vital)
3) Drinking 15 cups of water: keep health and help lose weight
4) Wake up at 5am every morning: spend more time on studying and working and also to maintain a healthy body (to guarantee enough sleep, this will also affect the time I go to bed)
5) Run the stairs: some exercise to keep up my energy level (I live on 19th floor, run from lobby level to my home)
For my track record, please check this page. I will update the data every week to show my efforts.
Usually, a habit can take up to 21-30 days to become automatic and I am on my 12th day of forming these good habits when I publish this post. I hope these habits will be carried along with my life.
My biggest obstacle is laziness, so I implement the following to help me keep motivation alive:
1) Brush and Floss teeth: As this is not just for myself, I use it as a way to express my love to my little boy. If he understands the importance of protecting his teeth, he will have agood foundation of a good health. If sometimes I go to meeting during the night. I usually brush the teeth with my son before I leave the house and try not to eat anything after that.
2) Abs exercise: I use it as a way to relax and schedule it between my work hours. It has been working very well so far.
3) Drinking 15 cups of water: as I am person who is crazy about numbers, I keep record of each cup I had, this helps me complete more water than I can ever think of.
4) Wake up at 5am every morning: laziness is my biggest enemy of this habit, especially in a winter morning when my wife and my boy are still in their sweet dreams. To confess, this is a torture to me and I have not done very well for the beginning. Since a week ago, I start to use a method from the book to add some motivation to the morning wake up. It became better.
5) Run the stairs: I am so tired of doing this, but again I found a good way to complete with myself by recording the time I use to run home from lobby of my building. I finished the running in 3 m 11s on Jan 16 and today I completed in 2 m 6 sec today (ONE minute and FIVE seconds or about 34% faster from the beginning). I give myself a big compliment!
To change a bad habit.
I consider this is much harder than forming a good habit, but this is also why understanding the power of habit is more important. We all know bad habits such as gamble, smoking, drug and alcohol problem can destroy personal lives and families. Even though I am lucky enough not having any of above, overweight is always a big problem I am carrying lifelong since I was 11 years old. I am 40 pounds over weighted according to my height now and worked on this issue for many years without any good result.
After reading The Power of Habit book, I am following the framework introduced on the Appendix to:
- Identify the routine
- Experiment with Rewards
- Isolate the cue
- Have a plan
As I just started working on it since 2 days ago, I am not proud enough to write down my experience now, however with my greatest confidence, please check this page on my blog for future updates. I want to be the most successful loser (on weight) in year 2013.
To my blog reader, if this book sounds interesting to you, you can purchase it at the following link and do not forget to leave a comment to let me know what you think.