1. Efficient brains1
3. Keystone Habits
4. Exercise and Willpower
We can get overwhelmed with all the information that we are given every day, so our brains become efficient at processing all the necessary and unnecessary thoughts, images, etc. that we are exposed to. If we do the same rituals everyday good or bad, our brains can put us on auto pilot so we don’t have to make the same decisions over and over everyday. Thank goodness! Evidently, we have will power that gets depleted every day by the end of the day and so establishing habits extends our willpower so we can perform what we need to do longer each day. If I had to debate every day that I was going to make my bed, I would lose more will power earlier in the day. Charles Duhigg, also teaches that we can replace bad habits with good habits because habits are malleable or flexible.
This was the most powerful idea of the book for me. It showed me the process, the how-to, to mold my habits. A “cue” is the beginning of the whole process. It could be that as soon as you get up you put on your exercise clothes. Another cue could be that you always exercise at a certain time or after you do something else. After responding to your cue and performing whatever activity you were trying to do, you reward yourself by acknowledging that you are doing something very hard, and you appreciate how you feel afterwards. Your reward could also be marking a chart or recording your exercise stats on an app or with an exercise partner. My reward for cleaning my bathrooms every week, which is not my favorite thing, is to play tennis right after. I think about how much fun I am going to have, while I am cleaning and scrubbing, and feel completely great spending two hours in the middle of the day filling my bucket, because I didn’t hire someone to come in and clean my bathrooms. The secret for me to still get it done however, is my commitment to doing it on Thursday mornings. No matter what. That is my routine, and I have learned to stick to it.
You identify your Keystone habits–the keystone being the important stone at the top of a stone arch that holds the whole arch together–that you want to develop. Some could include, always recording your expenses, regular scripture reading, drinking enough water everyday, or exercising–anything that is critical enough that you think will affect everything you do. Charles Duhigg shows how these keystone habits will build willpower and affect your whole life.
Exercise and Willpower
Studies have shown that exercise, even once a week, can have a huge effect on your life. Do it!
Willpower out predicts everything. The more we can develop it the better our lives will be. It out predicts IQ for academic performance. My husband Craig always says that he wasn’t the smartest when he went to graduate school to get a MBA. “But I could work circles around anyone else.”
Probably the most important idea is that you believe in your mindset. You believe that you can change your bad habits to become good ones. Charles Duhigg says you can replace bad habits with good ones. He has stories and research that supports his premise. Change your cue–routine–reward and you can change anything.
How can this help you as a mother? Remember my favorite saying of 2017?
“Only you can give your children a happy mother.” If exercise helps you with the rest of your day, do it! If keeping tabs on your finances helps you feel in control and peaceful, arrange a cue-routine-reward until it becomes a habit. If showering everyday and getting ready before your children get up helps you feel on top of the day, figure out the cue-routine-reward so you can get it done. My friend Karen said at our book group when we were reviewing this book, “I make a green smoothie every morning, that’s my cue for family scripture studying.” My cue for exercise every morning used to be 6:30 no matter what. Then I realized I wasn’t making time for writing on this blog and so I switched things up and I exercise after. I have a deep rut in my brain for exercising so I never miss. I was able to do a switcheroo because the endorphins release really helps my day and exercise helps me regulate a bad nights sleep. That is my reward and the reward is worth it to me.
Charles Duhigg gives countless stories of how habits persist in our brains, even as we age or have dementia. My father-in-law had a stroke in 2012, but still took their dog for a walk 4 times a day and always closed the blinds at sunset, among many of the habits that persisted after the stroke. Habits can be a positive powerful way to affect our life for good. What this book helped me realize is how much control I have over my life. That if I am willing to plan my cues and routine and work on my willpower, my brain will help me with the routines I dislike, like cleaning my bathrooms on Thursdays, changing my sheets on Wednesdays, or cleaning out my fridge on Mondays. Developing the cues-routines-rewards for just my house cleaning has put it all on automatic, and I don’t have to wrestle in my brain whether I want to do it or not. I have never wanted to do it, but The Power of Habit changed all that for me. What habits have you successfully developed? What are your cues-routines-rewards? Happy New Year!
This is a repost from 2018.