Summer Reading Party: The Power of Habit

Summer marches on and so does our reading party! Next up is a classic already. The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, was an instant hit. Rightfully so. He did the heavy work and digging to figure out exactly how and why we form habits, how to change habits and how organizations and society can leverage those habits for good.

best personal finance reading list

The book is broken into 3 sections: habits of individuals, habits of organizations, and habits of societies.

He sites research that 40% of our daily actions are made by habit, not actual decisions. Depending on our habits, this can be incredibly beneficial or downright horrible! If 40% of what we do automatically pushes us in healthy, positive directions, well that’s great! Our habits can serve us well to make progress or maintain important aspects of our life; like flossing our teeth, or always hugging our kids goodnight. BUT habits can also pull us in directions we don’t want. Late night snacking, mindless scrolling on Facebook, or putting easy tasks before hard tasks.

His research on the habit loop is applied through the chapters. How we can study our own habit loops and learn how to hijack negative routines to replace them with positive ones. The loop consists of a cue which triggers our routine, which when finished leads to our reward. If we keep the cue and reward the same, it makes swapping out the routine part of the habit possible.

The book is full of examples from research and real life examples from people, organizations and movements. Duhigg does a great job of showing the power of habits in small personal situations, like giving up drinking and why AA has been effective, or group dynamics like football teams, hospitals, the civil rights movement and churches.

Our habits are obviously powerful forces on our personal fiances. And with 40% of our actions tied to habit it is important to consider how our habits connect with our spending and saving.

Duhigg also deals with the idea of “keystone habits,” the ones that cause a domino effect into all areas of our life. Getting our personal finances in order can be that keystone habit that pours over into a dozen other areas. It’s something I witness in my mentoring program over and over. We focus on creating change in one area (usually money) but then their relationships change, health changes, business grow, attitudes and perspectives shift. I would never say, “Let’s work on this one area and build habits here, and then all these other areas will start to improve as well.” Except that’s what happens because of the impact that keystone habits have on our lives.

One of the reasons I love to re-read books is that each time I read a book it seems to have new lessons I need to learn in the new season of life I find myself. When I first read this book 2 years ago, there were a few pages that had no seeming impact. I didn’t underline a single sentence. But this time, all my focus and ink fell on the pages between pg 82-93 as I thought about the community that is being built here.

Here were a few lines that caught my attention:

“Rather they (people) changed because they were embedded in social groups that made change easier. One woman said her entire life shifted when she singed up for a psychology class and met a wonderful group. ‘It opened up a Pandora’s box’ she told researchers. ‘I could not tolerate the status quo any longer. I had changed to my core.’ “

“Change occurs among other people/It seems real when we can see it in other people’s eyes.” 

“The same process that makes AA so effective- the power of a group of people to teach individuals how to believe- happens whenever people come together to help one another change. Belief is easier when it occurs within a community./ Belief is essential, and it grows out of a communal experience, even if that community is only as large as two people.”

Some beliefs are hard to change: You are only as important as your job title. You can buy a better life with nicer stuff. You will always be trapped in a job you hate, with no power to change that. Debt is a way of life. You will never be able to retire from work, so why bother even trying to save.

But community can be magic. “When we can see it in other people’s eyes.” When we see the change in someone else and we start to dare to believe that the change could be ours as well. And we make each other better.

So a shout out to all of you who make this community better for being part of it. You take the time to comment. You are part of the email newsletter and send awesome email replies. You connect on Twitter. And you comment, like and share on Facebook. To those that I get to walk side by side with in mentoring or get to know more in consultations. Thank you all for sharing little pieces of your life and story, because we are better for it. I know I am.

Each Tuesday I send out my email newsletter. It’s everything that doesn’t fit into posts, what is happening currently and things that just feel too vulnerable to share on the great world wide web. Plus I am doing a drawing for each book I review!

For conversation

Have you tried using the habit loop research to alter your habits?

How has community changed the way you see a topic/ your belief in an idea/ or your ability to alter your habits?

“We become like the 5 people we spend the most time with.” How have you seen this play out in your relationships online and offline?

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3 thoughts on “Summer Reading Party: The Power of Habit

  1. Haven’t read it for a while, but it is a fantastic read. It’s always interesting how our lives are driven less by actual choices, but more by routine. I know I have to consciously break myself of some things, like going to the gym after work, instead of relying on thinking about it. It’s great when it’s embedded in your DNA when healthy things and financial decisions are driving you without you thinking about them

  2. It is so true, that a like minded community can make it easier to make the changes you want to make, since often the reason you need to change has a lot to do with who you’ve been listening to in the first place. I am eternally grateful to the online FI and minimalism communities for leading me to places that my heart knew I needed but my mind hadn’t quite figured out yet. 🙂