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The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
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Book Discussions > The Power of Habit - October 2012

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Jacob (paulsen) | 228 comments Mod
This is the official discussion thread for our October book


Kara (KaraAyako) | 19 comments I've had this book on my TBR since I read Duhigg's article in the NYTimes: "How Companies Learn Your Secrets."

I've always loved statistics and economics, and this sounds completely up my alley. Looking forward to reading this one!


Charles Duhigg I'm glad to hear it! Let me know what you think!


Jacob (paulsen) | 228 comments Mod
Charles, how big of a support group is necessary to help someone believe? Does your research expand at all on that?


message 5: by Jay (last edited Oct 03, 2012 01:59PM) (new)

Jay Oza | 137 comments Looking forward to having a good discussion on this book this month. I am going to make a habit of reading a chapter a day starting this Friday, so get ready for lots of questions. Also, I have developed a habit of tweeting stuff from the book I am reading, so I am not sure if Charles has an #hashtag (perhaps "ThePowerofHabit") that he would like us to use.

I have not read the book yet so excuse the question if this is covered, but is there a difference between a habit and culture within an organization? Is habit easier to change than culture?


Jay Oza | 137 comments Not sure if you have any stats on what percentage of work we do is the result of a habit. As one is required to learn and relearn new skills, is it possible to develop a habit to do a job and then move on to another job and so on? After a while this gets very taxing for the brain as you explain in your book. Is this something that will just exhaust us as we have to develop more and more habits to get and keep a job?


Denise Stokes | 7 comments I read the book a few months ago. The references to Tony Dungy and Michael Phelps have stuck with me and I'm no sports fan. I can't wait to hear from the author in person...well sort of in person via the internet! Lol


James Oh | 4 comments That's sound great. I ahve not read about this book yet but definitely will add into list of to read book. Thanks and look forward to hearing the discussion from you guys.


Tiffany | 3 comments I am new to the group but had to join because I love to read and I am 2/3 of the way through this book already and am loving it! I have downloaded the The Flow Chart from his site and am planning to use it to reset some of my routines. I have had a breakthrough already and it was related to the Tony Dungy story. Why do I have the skills, desire and ability to be productive yet am not achieving total success....BELIEF...who would have thunk it! Can't wait to hear your perspectives


Jary Welker (JaryWelker) | 17 comments I just received my copy in the mail yesterday and could not wait to open it early this morning and start reading. I am anxious to learn more about the 'Power of Habit' in my life and as a manager of others.


message 11: by Jacob (last edited Oct 11, 2012 07:48AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jacob (paulsen) | 228 comments Mod
When I first started reading the book I immediately thought of two habit loops in my life I wanted to change. The first is a habit of picking up some candy every time I walk past the desk of our administrative assistant. The second is my habit of staying up too late at night and sleeping in too late in the morning.

The first is simplier to understand and change. The cue is walking past that desk. The routine is eating the candy. The reward is the sweet flavor and satisfaction. So, instead, now when I walk past that desk I go a little further to the drinking fountain and get a fresh drink of water. The cue and the reward and the same (or close enough) but the routine changes.

The second habit is more difficult. There are a lot of cues that send me to sleep and even more that cause me to wake up. (Kids, alarms, my wife getting up, etc). The routine is easy to identify, I stay in bed as long as I possibly can. The reward I think is the feeling that I'm more fully rested. This is more difficult to tackle.

Any suggestions? Also, anyone else want to share some habit loops you have identified?


message 12: by Jay (last edited Oct 11, 2012 11:32AM) (new)

Jay Oza | 137 comments A while ago I was walking with someone and he just had enough and said to me that you know it is really annoying that you tend to begin some of your sentences with "to be honest."

I didn't even know I was doing it and thought he was very rude. Then I asked people close to me, but they were of no help since they probably got used to it and were not bothered.

The only way I could get rid of it was to think and slow down my speech pattern. These things are very hard to detect unless someone you trust points it out to you. I am not sure if it is completely gone.

This does not fall into any habit loop (I think), but it was a habit that I was unaware of. At that time this book was not available so I didn't know the science behind these habits we form that we don't even know exist.

Now I think I am becoming a habit detective, like an English teacher looking out for bad grammar.

Another habit which I finally kicked (I hope) was watching lot of football on Sundays. The cue is that it is Sunday and the anticipation is built from people talking about the games; the routine is to watch wall-to-wall football to talk about it the next day; the reward is eating junk food. Not sure if it is the craving for junk food that made me watch so much football on Sundays.

I had gained weight, but now I don't have craving for junk food, since I have replaced that with broccoli. Also, now I go for a walk on Sundays at a park nearby or read a book from 12books.


Charles Duhigg Tiffany wrote: "I am new to the group but had to join because I love to read and I am 2/3 of the way through this book already and am loving it! I have downloaded the The Flow Chart from his site and am planning..."

Thanks for letting me know, Tiffany!


Charles Duhigg Jacob wrote: "When I first started reading the book I immediately thought of two habit loops in my life I wanted to change. The first is a habit of picking up some candy every time I walk past the desk of our ad..."

Nice work, Jacob! Candy habits are tough - but it sounds like you're through it.

On the rest question - I think you need to give yourself a reward for getting into bed earlier. That's the routine you want to encourage. So, maybe you give yourself a few minutes with a nice book in bed? Or a couple of minutes to relax? The faster the reward comes, and the more you enjoy it, the faster the new habit will take hold.


Charles Duhigg Jay wrote: "A while ago I was walking with someone and he just had enough and said to me that you know it is really annoying that you tend to begin some of your sentences with "to be honest."

I didn't even ..."


Jay: that's fantastic to hear. I think you are exactly right - it sounds like junk food and watching tv became intertwined for you. I'm so glad to hear you've found a healthier habit. Congrats!


Tiffany | 3 comments Charles wrote: "Tiffany wrote: "I am new to the group but had to join because I love to read and I am 2/3 of the way through this book already and am loving it! I have downloaded the The Flow Chart from his site..."

Do you have a flow chart for creating a new habit? I need to workout, I know the benefits and I can do it, but I don't. So I am guessing that means I am missing the trigger?


Barbara Caballero | 64 comments To message 11. It sounds like this might be a keystone habit. If you start of the other end with an earlier cue to go to bed and a reward for going to bed earlier, then getting up earlier because a added reward for the first habit.


Barbara Caballero | 64 comments I have started keeping a food diary and recording how many glasses of water I drink each day. It works when I work it. : )


Jacob (paulsen) | 228 comments Mod
Barbara wrote: "To message 11. It sounds like this might be a keystone habit. If you start of the other end with an earlier cue to go to bed and a reward for going to bed earlier, then getting up earlier because a..."

Good point. This is a keystone habit. So far its been interesting. On Sunday night I started my efforts of changing the cues and routines. After only one day of the adjusted sleep pattern I find myself exercising. There are other little things that I'm noticing are easier or changed as well. LOVE change


message 20: by Jay (last edited Oct 13, 2012 10:03AM) (new)

Jay Oza | 137 comments This might be an example of a keystone habit. Let me know what you think.

When I was hired as a consultant at Bell Labs in the mid 90s on a project, I had lot of difficulty getting along with the project lead since he felt threatened that I was undermining his leadership by making technical suggestions based on my past experience working on a successful project at Bell Labs. It got to the point where I was thinking of leaving, since the team that was assembled was not performing well and I was just not enjoying working there.

Since I had made up my mind to quit and was actively looking for another job, I said let me try something since I had nothing to lose.

I came up with and idea( which at that time I didn't think much of it) to have an individual on a project team select a restaurant of his or her choice to have a group lunch on Fridays.

To keep this short, it worked since it took us out of our work environment and everyone was talking to each other and getting along and it carried over to the project which did get finished on time, under budget and met its business objectives.

When I did leave 6 months later (since the phase 1 was finished), the team thought I was a great consultant and said they were sad to see me move on. The only thing I remember doing that was noteworthy was to come up with the lunch idea. I was not hired for that purpose.

The project lead got along so well with the team that he even invited the team to go flying in his plane that he had partial ownership of to fly over New York City skyline. (I still to this day remember approaching the Twin Towers from NJ, passing over the Statue of Liberty. We were below the top floors pf the towers due to air traffic control for small planes). When his turn came to select a restaurant, he selected the famous White House Deli in Atlantic City, NJ. He took us there on his plane.

Sorry for the long post, but it brought back memories when reading the chapter on the keystone habit and "small wins," that I though I share with the club members.


Barbara Caballero | 64 comments Jay wrote: "This might be an example of a keystone habit. Let me know what you think.

When I was hired as a consultant at Bell Labs in thew nid 90s on a project, I had lot of difficulty getting along with th..."


Great example. Isn't it interesting to look back on these things and see how they apply. Sort of the start of a ripple that made differences in many unplanned ways. Good job and thanks for sharing.


message 22: by Jay (last edited Oct 14, 2012 05:26PM) (new)

Jay Oza | 137 comments I found this section in Chapter 4 very interesting where the author discusses how Paul O'Neill got to the bottom of the problem on the cause of infant deaths when he was working in the government.

The author does not go into a technique that O'Neill uses, but it appears that he used the Lean Six-Sigma method of asking Five Whys to get to the root cause of a problem.

If you ask why five times, you get to the root of the problem. This could be used for anything.

In this case they identified the root cause to be poor teacher training.

Check this link for a good explanation of this technique by Eric Reis who wrote the book titled "Lean Startup": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmrAkH...

Anyone use this any technique at work or any other place that helped you get to the root cause of a problem?


Jay Oza | 137 comments I have to admit there are so many practical things in this book that you can put to use immediately.

Here is one that I didn't know I was doing till I got to Chapter 5.

By being active in posting comments, I am doing more than just reading, but also learning and thinking. It enhances the whole experience of reading by being part of this book club and reading comments from others.

At the end of the month, I will condense my comments and use some of it for the review of this book. So any feedback is always welcome and encouraged.


Barbara Caballero | 64 comments Agree. The best learning comes from digesting, pondering and sharing with others. Stephen Covey used to say we learn best when we teach what we have learned to others.


Jacob (paulsen) | 228 comments Mod
Jay, I love the 5 Whys video. Thanks for sharing. Also love your story about the weekly lunches. Its interesting to me how a keystone habit can sometimes be something strangely simple or seemingly unrelated like lunch or safety for workers. Sometimes it can also be more directly obvious and complicated... like going to be on time and waking up early :)


Jay Oza | 137 comments The master practitioner of the "small win" technique that I came across in another book was President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In my opinion, one of the greatest hire of all time was when FDR selected Dwight Eisenhower to be the Supreme Allied Commander during World War II. It was a curious choice since he was not known for being articulate and an eloquent speaker. He was not known for being a great military strategist. He did not even graduate at the top of his West Point class. So why was he chosen? FDR saw that he had the ability to lead people where you had to deal with big personalities like Churchill, Marshall, Patton, Montgomery and many others.

The technique Eisenhower used to get consensus on some of the most monumental decision of the war, or possibly ever, was through small wins. He focused on things they agreed on and glossed over things where there were opposite viewpoints to come back to them later. He did not want to get bogged down on things they disagreed on but to move things along by focusing on the areas of agreement through small wins.


Barbara Caballero | 64 comments I like this and have found it works well in our personal lives as well. I have many friends of varying political perspectives and have found that attending to our areas of agreement works well. I enjoy my friends and understanding their perspectives. But find most successful conversations do not stray too far from areas of agreement. We learn to trust each other and to work together to reach common goals.


Jay Oza | 137 comments Barbara wrote: "I like this and have found it works well in our personal lives as well. I have many friends of varying political perspectives and have found that attending to our areas of agreement works well. I e..."

It is good to read that you are actually using this technique. It does require lot of discipline and practice, since we all want to win the big things quickly.


Jay Oza | 137 comments Do you think Christmas shopping is a cultivated habit that we have developed?


Liam Delahunty (liamvictor) | 2 comments I read this back in July and thought it was excellent, giving it five stars here on Goodreads.

For me the book was less in the self help or business cateogry and more like books from Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Ariely, Nassim Nicholas Taleb and such like. So I'd put it under the "Social Economics" umbrella.

It's a terrific read and highly recommended if anyone is wavering on getting it.


Jay Oza | 137 comments In Chapter 7, the section about "sticky" music is interesting. I am sure it applies to lot of genre of music that we listen to. The one I will point out is an old classical master" Vivaldi. He is most famous for his "Four Seasons." Most people like that and I think tend to "stick" to his other compositions since it sounds so familiar. Not sure if anyone else has experienced that. I am sure that applies to Bach and Mozart too.

This may explain why sports metaphors are so important in communication. We all have some familiarity with major sports such as football, baseball, basketball, tennis, golf, etc.


Jay Oza | 137 comments Based on Duhigg's findings that he describes in Chapter 7 about people sticking to things they are familiar with, it could lead to discrimination at workplace and other situations.

I am not sure if this has been studied, but social media may legitimize discrimination at workplace, especially in hiring, since one will not pursue a candidate that is not familiar to his or her liking if that person has a social media profile.

Any thoughts on this?


Jacob (paulsen) | 228 comments Mod
This opens up a whole new line of discussion worth considering. I suspect that there is a lot of research about how our own sub-conscious efforts to be with people we understand lead us to push away everyone else. The question might be what are the factors about people that we need to identify as familiar. Race or Gender may not be on that list. It might be more about certain types of body language, accents, height, etc... Very interesting to think about.


Jacob (paulsen) | 228 comments Mod
Liam wrote: "I read this back in July and thought it was excellent, giving it five stars here on Goodreads.

For me the book was less in the self help or business cateogry and more like books from Malcolm Gladw..."


Liam, I would agree that it feels more like the books you mentioned but I still think that it falls into this genre. The implications of understanding habits are huge for organizations and leaders. Of course, I feel the same way about "Tipping Point" and others in that list.


Jay Oza | 137 comments Funny story comes to my mind when I was reading about how government tried to get people to eat organs during WW II so they would get sufficient protein in their diet.

While ago I took my parents on a vacation to San Francisco, and we went to a vegetarian Chinese restaurant. (We are vegetarians).

The restaurant had all these exotic items on their menu with authentic (non veg names) items containing chicken, pork, duck, etc.

My parents would not eat it even though we kept assuring them that it was all vegetarian with tofu. To this day, I still get reminded about that bad experience they had at the Chinese restaurant where I tried to make them eat non-vegetarian stuff.

Since that experience, I have never taken them to a Chinese restaurant. I don't think they would come any way.


Barbara Caballero | 64 comments Jay wrote: "Do you think Christmas shopping is a cultivated habit that we have developed?"

I am not sure. It seems to be to be more of a cultural expectation that we have accepted. Depending upon what you find enjoyable it can be an opportunity or a drudge. And depending upon the preparation you put into it it can be about discovery or making do.


Barbara Caballero | 64 comments Liam wrote: "I read this back in July and thought it was excellent, giving it five stars here on Goodreads.

For me the book was less in the self help or business cateogry and more like books from Malcolm Gladw..."


What actions have you chosen to take as a result of your reading? What are your favorite take-aways?


Barbara Caballero | 64 comments Jay wrote: "Based on Duhigg's findings that he describes in Chapter 7 about people sticking to things they are familiar with, it could lead to discrimination at workplace and other situations.

I am not sure ..."


I cannot imagine the person trying to hire a new person would look up their profile. Would this happen if you had narrowed the choice to one or two and wanted more information on how the candidates think?


Barbara Caballero | 64 comments Jacob wrote: "This opens up a whole new line of discussion worth considering. I suspect that there is a lot of research about how our own sub-conscious efforts to be with people we understand lead us to push awa..."

I like to be with people who think differently than I do. It helps to open my perspectives. I like to listen and try to understand how they think and where their ideas come from.


Donnica | 2 comments For me just taking a day to be reflective on things and habits that either need changing or modifying. Once one establishes a mindset to form a new habit or modify another the effort becomes a subject of consistency.


Liam Delahunty (liamvictor) | 2 comments Barbara wrote: What actions have you chosen to take as a result of your reading? What are your favorite take-aways?

Not actions as such but more being aware of habitual behaviour. I've found the habits I have impossible to change at the moment. I dare say I need do more about the cue and reward. I'm interested in the forming of new "better" habits and have been considering ways to do that.

My favourite parts are:
* The "big data" section on retail shopper's behaviours.
* The development of the marketing and sales strategy for Frabreze.
* The gambling section.


message 42: by Jay (last edited Oct 22, 2012 09:39AM) (new)

Jay Oza | 137 comments Barbara wrote: "Jay wrote: "Based on Duhigg's findings that he describes in Chapter 7 about people sticking to things they are familiar with, it could lead to discrimination at workplace and other situations.

I ..."


I read something quite interesting in one of Malcolm Gladwell's book ( I believe it was "Blink"), where he talks about why a Symphony Orchestra had very few women and, in some cases, none at all. It was believed that men were better musicians.

Once many of them implemented a blind test, the number of women in the orchestra started to increase. It was a fascinating section on how our biases work that we are completely unaware of.


Jay Oza | 137 comments Barbara wrote: "Jacob wrote: "This opens up a whole new line of discussion worth considering. I suspect that there is a lot of research about how our own sub-conscious efforts to be with people we understand lead ..."

Barbara, you will like this story I heard recently.

During the heated British election in 1886, William Gladstone was running against Benjamin Disraeli. The winner would not only become the Prime Minister of England, but rule half the world.

Two weeks before the election both man took a young woman to dinner on consecutive evenings. When the press asked her what she thought of the two men, she said the following:

"When I had dinner with Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England" and "when I had dinner with Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest woman in England."

Being interested in others make you smart.


Barbara Caballero | 64 comments Jay wrote: "Barbara wrote: "Jacob wrote: "This opens up a whole new line of discussion worth considering. I suspect that there is a lot of research about how our own sub-conscious efforts to be with people we ..."

Love it. Thanks.


Ariana | 17 comments I just finished "The Power of Habit" and loved every page! There was a lot of new and valuable insight for me on so many different levels - for myself personally for my work and for my community involvement.

Earlier this year I made a commitment to be more dedicated to my own lifelong learning. I created systems and support to encourage me to read more and follow through on implementing new changes in my business (I learned a lot of bad habits from my old employeer, despite my efforts not to!). I think this commitment to learning is a keystone habit. Since making that commitment I've been able to change other habits like dealing with some health issues. Is learning a keystone habit?

I also see how important belief is in creating positive change in one's life. I also recently finished reading Napoleon Hill's "new" book, "Outwitting the Devil" and he talks a lot about the importance of purpose and belief as well. All I can say to belief is that you have to feel it, to give in, to accept you are a part of something bigger than you, something intangible yet as clear as the sunrise....When I've struggled with belief it's been because I've had a negative mindset that's held me back - anyone struggling with that I recommend checking out "Taming Your gremlin" by Rick Carson.

I was also intrigued to read about the power of weak links. This past summer I organized a flash mob rain dance in my community, Fort Collins, CO during the High Park Fire (it felt like the only way to do something in a situation where I had no control). I told the idea to a few friends, posted something on twitter and 5 hours later there were over 50 people in old town square, drummers and the whole shebang - we even raised money for victims - other activities flowed out of that.

Changing the habits of communities is something I'm particularly intrigued by. I've worked on a number of efforts to promote sustainability, local business, energy efficiency/conservation, green living, etc. Some have had more success then others. I'm looking forward to adding the concepts from this book to my array of strategies and tactics for educating, engaging, and empowering others to create positive change!


Denise Stokes | 7 comments Before I read this book I had no idea how strong the power of habit was and that you could use the power of habit to change your life. I always believed in programming and reprogramming dreams but never thought about applying that principle to habits. Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, was recommended to me before it was even released by someone who reads a couple of books a month. (Imagine pulling off a feat like that.) It was on his list of must-read books. I picked it up in July, a few months after its release. I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to share about my experience reading the book. It was a last minute decision to make it personal.

The stories about people like Paul O’Neill and Michael Phelps, the behavioral marketing tactics used to sell Pepsodent and for Target to zero in on customers, and the encouragement of societal habits by the Saddleback Church and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were fascinating.

As someone who could stand to lose a more than a few pounds, I have often told myself that “you need to change the way you do things and look at things (namely food and exercise).” Sadly, that’s about as far as I had gotten with my endeavor to lose weight. Once I started to read the book The Power of Habit and learn more about cues, routines and rewards, my thinking and my outlook began to change. I’m not really sure what all of a sudden triggered it, but I started exercising (walking) with regularity and noticed the immediate rewards (normal blood sugar levels). I have only now started to incorporate the food part of the equation, but for the first time in my life, I’m happy that exercising has crept into my consciousness. I think about doing it even when I’m not doing it!

Did the book provide a cure for all that ails me? No, but the one thing it did provide was HOPE that I could begin to do some things differently than I had been doing before. If I ever reach the 40 to 50lb weight loss goal, I will always attribute a good part of it to reading the book The Power of Habit!


Jay Oza | 137 comments Ariana wrote: "I just finished "The Power of Habit" and loved every page! There was a lot of new and valuable insight for me on so many different levels - for myself personally for my work and for my community i..."

Thanks for sharing that with us.

There is lot in this book that we can all apply in our personal lives and at work.


Jay Oza | 137 comments Denise wrote: "Before I read this book I had no idea how strong the power of habit was and that you could use the power of habit to change your life. I always believed in programming and reprogramming dreams but ..."

Denise,

One thing I have learned about exercising ( that the book mentions) is to get your sneakers on and get out of the house. That in itself is a major victory. Once you are out you can do a light exercise or an intense one based on how you feel that day, but you do need to get out to develop the habit.

Just ran into this situation on Saturday with my son, who is ten. We go for a cross country walk on weekends. He didn't want to come. I had given up, but my wife insisted he go with me. He had no choice at this point. He kept on complaining as we were driving to the park. But once we got there, it all changed and he finished the entire course.

For his reward, I got him his favorite, onion bagel, and he was happy and no more complaining.


Jay Oza | 137 comments One of the thing I would like to ask Charles is about "chunking." He discusses this in chapter 1 when is talking about the experiments with rats.

The same concept allows us to read better if we have knowledge of the material we are reading stored as chunks in our memory. We are totally depended on that for reading.

Perhaps he can address this on the webinar tomorrow, if Sandy does not cancel it.


Jacob (paulsen) | 228 comments Mod
Well, as predicted by Jay, Sandy did cancel our webinar today. Stay tuned everyone... we will be finalizing the date/time for the rescheduled session as soon as possible.


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