Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Section 8 Michelle Boudreaux- Installment 2: The Power of Habit
Installment #1: http://cophilosophy.blogspot.com/2017/04/section-8-michelle-boudreaux-power-of.html
The impact a habit has is massive, even if the habit itself might not seem so large. Habits can be both highly rewarding and deeply damaging. Some habits are so strong that they can make someone behave in a truly irrational way. For example, people who bite their fingernails. Stress plays a big role in this particular habit being formed. People who have this habit continue to do so even though it can cause infection in their skin as well as making them physically sick. It also diminishes one’s ability to pick things up or even do simple activities like scratching an itch. This is because of either swelling of the finger or just merely the absence of a nail. There is absolutely no rational reason to bite one’s fingernails, but people will always continue to do so. Willingness to make sacrifices for good health or functionality is difficult to do when a bad habit is controlling someone. Although it is extremely grueling, bad habits can be broken if enough effort is put forth.
Habits cannot be completely extinguished. They dictate nearly half of the decisions one makes in a day. Habits will always be there but can be repressed if enough effort is used. The first step in changing a habit is to believe that one is capable of creating change. Though it is impossible to control some habits, like the fight or flight response, all other habits we are aware of consciously can be changed. At the end of this book, Duhigg provides a detailed process for changing personal habits by using the Habit Loop. In order to change a habit, one must identify the reward and routine they have associated with it. After finding the correct reward and routine match, one should make a list of possible cues. This will allow them to understand the reasoning for their habit, which in turn, allows them to replace the unhealthy reward with something more fulfilling. “Obviously, changing some habits can be more difficult… But once you understand how a habit operates- once you diagnose the cue, the routine and the reward- you gain power over it.”
Duhigg attempts to convey this argument with an example about children and marshmallows in a Ted Talk he did in 2013. It starts at about 9:25 in the video. Duhigg explains that the children were told not to eat the marshmallow. If they complied, they would be rewarded with an extra marshmallow to eat along with the one they had to resist eating. All of the children except one were unable to resist the marshmallow and were not rewarded with another. The one child who resisted was rewarded with the second marshmallow. His strategy for resisting the initial marshmallow was to not look at it. If he happened to sneak a glance, he pictured an invisible square around the marshmallow, tricking himself into thinking it was just a picture instead of an edible snack. This was his modified routine to resist the marshmallow, or cue, which lead to a reward, a second marshmallow.