Welcome to the first discussion session for the group read of The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg as part of the New Year’s Resolution Reading Challenge. I put The Power of Habit to good use. It was one of the books mentioned in my New Year piece for the Huffington Post: A Librarian’s Tips For Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution. Check it out — as readers of the book you might have something special to add to the discussion.
If you want to join the group read, details are here: The Power of Habit — A New Year Group Read. Most folks seem to be reading this pretty quickly, so you have plenty of time to catch up.
There will be more discussion about The Power of Habit tonight, Wednesday, during our #NewYearBooks Twitter chat. I put up a post last week about how to participate: New Year’s Resolution Reading Challenge — The Twitter Chat. Join us at 9pm Eastern / 8pm Central / 2am GMT.
On to the discussion questions.
1. For nonfiction, The Power of Habit has lots of characters. Whose story did you like the most and why?
Did anyone else notice that while there are a lot of characters, most of them are men? I may be unreasonable in how much note I take of such things. But, I’m going to choose a woman — Beverly Pauly, the wife of Eugene whose brain damage destroyed his memory but not his ability to develop new habits. I’m guessing that we wouldn’t know nearly as much about Eugene without her facilitating his work with scientists. I was impressed by her efforts to use what the scientists were learning from Eugene to improve his life.
2. Chapters 1 and 2 of The Power of Habit introduce the habit loop of Cue, Routine, and Reward with craving as the engine of creation. Tell a story about a time when you, or someone you know, successfully used a cue and reward to establish a new routine as habit.
When I first started improving my eating, I signed on to a friend’s “Thing” on 43 Things, “eat a salad and one fruit every day.” Declaring my intention to eat fruit didn’t turn out to be enough to make it happen. I didn’t manage to develop the fruit habit until I used the visual cue of always having washed fruit in a bowl on the counter. The reward was getting to post that I ate my fruit 43 Things.
3. Chapter 3 of The Power of Habit describes the Golden Rule of Habit Change, that the best way to change a habit is to “keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.” (p. 62) Tell a story about a time when you, or someone you know successfully replaced a bad habit with a good one using this method.
The salad half of the fruit and salad intention started happening when I decided that I would always have a salad at lunch. My cue was the noon whistle that goes off in my head to say it’s lunch time. I grew up in company-owned housing across from an industrial plant — the steam whistle blew at noon and 4:30 to let the moms know that the dads were on their way home. The internal soundtrack of my day still has a whistle at noon to signify lunch.
The new routine was simply to add a salad to whatever I wanted for lunch. Subtracting things from my diet tends to make me cranky, but adding something isn’t that hard. Over time, my salad got bigger and the rest of the lunch got smaller, but that wasn’t how I started.
The old reward remained, feeling satiated from eating my lunch.
4. Later in Chapter 3, Duhigg reveals that belief and community play an important role in successful habit change, especially when things go wrong. How has belief or community aided in establishing a new habit or changing an old one for you or someone you know?
A couple of years later when I got more serious about changing my diet, aware that it would likely include some of that cranky-making necessity of eliminating some favorite foods, I joined the 3 Fat Chicks forum. I read the book The Complete Beck Diet for Life by Judith Beck and started participating in the group on 3FC that works with the Beck books. Part of the Beck program is to have a coach or diet buddy to work with and this group plays that role. But, really, it functions more like the communities that Duhigg discusses. There’s not much Higher Power reference, but there is a firm shared belief that the Cognitive Behavioral Techniques in the Beck books work, aided by leadership and active members who have made it work in their lives.
5. What habit would you like to establish or change in 2013? How do you see the habit loop working for you? What belief system or community can you join or establish to keep this habit going even when the newness of the New Year has worn off and the old cues are generating old cravings?
I want to develop a habit of writing for two hours in the morning BEFORE I do anything on the internet. I haven’t fully worked out how to make this happen. The cue will be coming upstairs to my study after breakfast to work. The routine will involve the Pomodoro Technique — 4 pomodoros of writing is my goal. The satisfied feeling of having written will be a reward. Also, letting myself loose on the internet because my writing is done for the day.
But, I can foresee a problem. I do crave email, Twitter, and Facebook in the morning. On stressful days, I’m not sure what will get me to turn on the timer for a pomodoro instead of making just a quick check of my email only to find myself still puttering about the web two hours later. Does anyone know of a community where one could record successes and struggles related to sticking to a writing regime?
I’m looking forward to seeing everyone else’s thoughts from Part 1 of The Power of Habit. If you post your thoughts on your blog, link to that post in the list below — don’t forget to visit everyone’s posts. Feel free to discuss in the blog comments. I’ve put the questions up in the Facebook group which is a good forum for free-wheeling back and forth discussion: New Year’s Resolution Reading Challenge on Facebook.