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The Power of Habit

abstract: Neuroscientists have been studying how habits are formed, and how those habits, good or bad, affect our lives. The knowledge is used by a surprising array of people. Like companies who want to determine how to get you to buy their product. Proctor and Gamble had a product designed to destroy odors. It was losing money and so they studied a group of women cleaning their houses to determine how to better market their product, Fabrese. After re-designing their advertising to suit the new information, the company and the sector it spawned now has annual sales of $1billion.

Companies benefit internally from recognizing and infusing good employee habits. Personally we all have things in our lives we'd like to change or improve upon. I used to have an issue with accounting. I'd rather have a dental hygenist appointment than work on my budget. Then I downloaded an App for my phone (Expense It) that has a daily reminder to input receipts and income streams, and now it's a become a habit with visible rewards, like seeing pie graphs of my business expenses and personal spending.

People hire habit makers (or breakers) all the time for things like improving diet and exercise habits, to stop smoking or avoid procrastinating. Successful people are merely those who have developed effective habits to accomplish the things they need to move forward with their lives.

The interesting part about the author of this book is

article:

March 01, 2012
— that the NPR source says he's a business correspondent for the NYT, and his own website has a blurb about how he came to write the book. The main point is: Charles Duegg is not a psychology or neuroscience journalist. He is a war correspondent who was covering the conflict in the Middle East and became fascinated by the application of habit training processes to alter soldiers' behavior and also to pick-up on enemy behavior patterns to determine an effective combat strategy. I've included his story in the next few paragraphs, but I'm already captivated to read The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change It and start using the information.

Drop us a line on our facebook wall telling us about your success (or failure) with habits. http://www.facebook.com/groups/48592177529/

The Way Into Habits

I first became interested in the science of habits eight years ago, as a newspaper reporter in Baghdad. The U.S. military, it occurred to me as I watched it in action, is one of the biggest habit-formation experiments in history. Basic training teaches soldiers carefully designed habits for how to shoot, think, and communicate under fire. 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. In those early days of the war, when the insurgency was spreading and death tolls were mounting, commanders were looking for habits they could instill among soldiers and Iraqis that might create a durable peace."

"I had been in Iraq for about two months when I heard about an officer conducting an impromptu habit modification program in Kufa, a small city ninety miles south of the capital. He was an army major who had analyzed videotapes of recent riots and had identified a pattern: Violence was usually preceded by a crowd of Iraqis gathering in a plaza or other open space and, over the course of several hours, growing in size. Food vendors would show up, as well as spectators. Then, someone would throw a rock or a bottle and all hell would break loose...

When the major met with Kufa's mayor, he made an odd request: Could they keep food vendors out of the plazas? Sure, the mayor said. A few weeks later, a small crowd gathered near the Masjid al-Kufa, or Great Mosque of Kufa. Throughout the afternoon, it grew in size. Some people started chanting angry slogans. 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."

"When I visited the base near Kufa, I talked to the major. You wouldn't necessarily think about a crowd's dynamics in terms of habits, he told me. But he had spent his entire career getting drilled in the psychology of habit formation."

"At boot camp, he had absorbed habits for loading his weapon, falling asleep in a war zone, maintaining focus amid the chaos of battle, and making decisions while exhausted and overwhelmed. He had attended classes that taught him habits for saving money, exercising each day, and communicating with bunkmates. 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. In some sense, he said, a community was a giant collection of habits occurring among thousands of people that, depending on how they're influenced, could result in violence or peace. In addition to removing the food vendors, he had launched dozens of different experiments in Kufa to influence residents' habits. There hadn't been a riot since he arrived."

"Understanding habits is the most important thing I've learned in the army," the major told me. "It's changed everything about how I see the world. You want to fall asleep fast and wake up feeling good? Pay attention to your nighttime patterns and what you automatically do when you get up. You want to make running easy? Create triggers to make it a routine. I drill my kids on this stuff. My wife and I write out habit plans for our marriage. This is all we talk about in command meetings. Not one person in Kufa would have told me that we could influence crowds by taking away the kebab stands, but once you see everything as a bunch of habits, it's like someone gave you a flashlight and a crowbar and you can get to work."

www.charlesguhigg.com
NPR Interview with the author

 

 

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