I'm about halfway through Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business and enjoying it.
In the first section of the book, Mr. Duhigg describes much of our individual behavior in the context of habits. In short, the brain relaxes when habit takes over. Helpful habits are Unconscious Competence. Self-destructive habits are Unconscious Incompetence.
I wish I'd read this when I was in advertising. In the 1980's, I read Claude Hopkins' Scientific Advertising, but didn't reread it. I liked the way it looked on my shelf, as if I frequently referred to it.
What are your habits?
Which ones serve you well? Which ones hinder you from being your best self, your most productive contributor to this world?
According to Mr. Duhigg, it seems that our lives are the sum of our habits: good, bad and neutral.
As with most enlightenment and self-improvement, self-awareness is the first step, so...
Here are (some of) my habits.
Habits I'd like to minimize or eliminate:
- Implicit associations. My eyes act with prejudice. (More on this later. To test your own: tinyurl.com/BiasHarvard.)
- Chewing my fingers, which, quite surprisingly, I haven't done since I read the first story in the book, of Lisa Allen in Cairo.
- Making poor dietary choices, usually in the form of ice cream, sweets or beer. On vacation this week, I've enjoyed each of these daily.
- Overzealous checking of Facebook — partly because of the consumption of time, but mainly because it ignites negative (or, at least, unproductive) emotion.
- Coffee. I've gone from nearly zero lifetime consumption (from age 0 to 45) to 2+ cups daily (50-55). Sure is a tasty spark!
Bad habits I don't care to change:
- Modest consumption of alcohol, even though any alcohol in any quantity is a known carcinogen. (None of us likes to agree with those research findings. And they are swamped by the marketing budgets of distillers, brewers and vintners -- and swamped by our own desire to regard alcohol as a nutritious input. Cheers!)
Good habits I'd like to maximize:
- Transcendental Meditation (which I've done, on and off, since I was 15)
- T'ai Chi
- My writing
- My worship and study of Jewish texts
- The practices of Getting Things Done (by David Allen) -- staying current with administration of my Vistage practice, especially levering the delegation to Monica
- Continued ignoring of television (20 years) and radio (2)
- Deeper active listening, and the other aspects of living in the Gestalt Stance
- Not more than eight minutes of social media daily
- Avoidance of gossip, adherence to the ethics of speech
Good habits I'd like to establish and grow:
- Daily use of the treadmill and exercise equipment (which I have placed all around me)
- Reading both fiction and non-fiction
- Physical awareness and engagement thorough my learning of Somatics
- Develop ability to sleep on airplanes
- Saving, accumulating wealth
Habits I'm glad I don't have:
- Tobacco. I smoked a cigar in March. I think it was my last.
- Illegal drugs. Decades ago, they became inconsistent with parenthood — and now, as the empty nest looms, remain inconsistent with my life in general.
- Spending beyond our means. In business, I used debt to fund operating losses. I'm not going to do that again!
At midpoint, The Power of Habit turns to how habit helps and hinders teams and societies. As I read, I wonder how to apply these learnings in the growth and development of my CEO peer groups. Can the application of the Golden Rule of Habit Change (see the book: tinyurl.com/HabitsPower) and Mr. Duhigg's other insights lead to groups that ever more vigorously address ever more diverse points of view in a safe, confidential community?
In the meantime, I'm open to any feedback, ridicule, encouragement, or companionship on the Road To Better Habits.
What are your habits?