In 2013-2014 I hit a mid life wall.  Starting into my forties I was working an off shift, commuting 2 hours a day, eating at drive throughs and spending much less time doing healthy things than I should.  That was the year I read the Power of Habit.

Prior to learning about the habit loop, I was running into all kinds of problems which began to manifest in the form of back injury, fatigue, brain fog and and a nagging frustration that I couldn't do the things that used to be effortless in my twenties and thirties.  

By a series of coincidence, I downloaded The Power of Habit on Audible and it completely shifted my thinking on daily routines, my habits and generally how I was spending my time.  Once I noticed my daily routine and understood how routines function, I gained the ability to change them by simply hacking the habit loop.  This single thing may be the most important concept I have learned in my adult life.

How to Hack the Habit Loop

Charles Duhig's "The Power of Habit" is a detailed exploration of how habits work and how you can make them work for you.  Once you understand the habit loop, you can hack it to improve any number of problems dramatically.  The best part - it concept scales to groups and teams.  I'll save that for a future post...

There is a ton of neuroscience that backs up the idea of the habit loop - all detailed in the book.  If you geek out on these things, It's a great read.  But if you like to just get to the point... if you can accept that our brains are hard wired to execute habits like software sub-routines, then you get the idea that you can hack that software.

Here is how a habit routine works:

Shamelessly stolen from Charles Duhigg's blog post on how habits work.

There is a cue, this triggers a routine, then there is a reward.  So for instance, a very simple description of a morning coffee habit may be:

  • When I wake up (cue)
  • I make coffee (routine)
  • Then I drink coffee (reward)

Loops like this run over and over and habits allow you to operate on autopilot.  Understanding this, it is easy to see that if you can build positive habits into your daily routine, you can change the trajectory of your health, energy, learning and advancement of any number of goals.

So if you want to apply this, you just need to spend a week identifying your habits and routines.  Keep the good ones, start thinning out the bad ones, and in roughly a month or so (the time it takes to create a new habit) you have autopilot routines that set you up for success.

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