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Changing Our Habits This New Year

January 8th, 2013

By Ann Robinson, Healthy Campus Initiatives

Keeping a new year’s resolution about exercise or diet is usually a matter of changing routines—habits. According to New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg, understanding our habits and the rationale behind them can be the key to successful change in everything we do. In fact, Duhigg was inspired to write his book The Power of Habit after doing a story on market research by Target. The company correctly deduced that a teenage girl was four months pregnant even when her own parents had no idea. Target knew from minor changes in shopping and on-line habits of the girl.

In The Power of Habit  is a fascinating read in which Duhigg interviews hundreds of experts, reviewing psychological and sociological research over the last 20 years and concludes that in order to change a habit, you have to understand the “habit loop.” A habit has a cue that stimulates a routine and culminates in a reward. To change a “bad” habit all you have to do is understand the reward you get from that habit and find and adopt a “good” habit that can lead to the same reward.

In the book Duhigg describes the interconnectedness of habits—about the tendency for a successful shift in one habit to impact multiple habits and the dependency of our very survival on habits. The nature of human predictability is fascinating, a bit frightening and definitely worth understanding. Duhigg’s book shows that many of us are controlled by our habits. Taking control of our habits can be transformative and can lead to great success in everything from our health to our success on the job.

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