Habits of change – book summary

Habits of change - book cover

These are the raw notes I made as I read “Habits of change: how to change your habits when change is difficult” by Sam Davies Website. This was a free ebook I downloaded a while back from Amazon via daily free books website. The chapters here are from 1 to 5.

If you want to change, you need to learn habits of change. These are small, Perceptily insignificant habits, but when applied consistently and invested in, pay high dividends.

1 – Introduction to habits

Defined 1908 B R Andrews in American Journal of Psychology. Retired Soldier ” attention” story.
Behhaviour that is no longer conscious.
40% daily actions are habits. Millars law – 5-9 bits of information. Autopilot is important
Focus on the process dependance not the goal(outcome dependance). Not hitting goals creates negative spiral. Have goals, but don’t focus on them.
Habits trump willpower everytime
Conserve wilpower for habits. Marshmallow study.

Cognitive booby traps

Self licensing – bar of chocolate after exercise. Any “deserve”self talk
Recognising self licensing requires good self awareness
Ironic rebound effect -don’t think of white polar  bear. Wegner: more you try and surpress a thought the more it will come. Brain in 2 modes- operator and monitor decision fatigue breaks seperation down.
Surfing the urge: become fully present,  notice thought, feelings and body and expect urge to pass.
Remind ourselves failure happens – do not be over critical
Pain / pleasure principle: guiding principles. Neuro associations:1) brain searches for uniqueness 2) looks for whats happening simultaneously (law of recency) and connects the dots 3) looks for what is happening consistently (recurring patterns). Eg pleasure of chocolats. Emotional threshold creates trigger.
Habits is about turning shoulds to musts
“How can I change my habits when I am so busy” Bo Bennett : not managing your time and amking excuses are two bad habits. Dont put them together by claiming you don’t have time”

2 – The science of habits

Regular behaviour is worth habitualising  – brain chunks patterns in Basal Ganglia.  Basal ganglia looks for cues to “run” habit aka autopilot

Habit loop: Duhigg states habits are cyclical: cue, a routine and a reward.
ROUTINE: Cues i.e. morning alarm, create actions
REWARDS: conscious or subconscious
TV adverts uses loops to entice

3 – The Motivation for habits

1-What habit do you want to form and why?  – clarity around what you really want is key.  Affective forecasting ( cognitive bias)  how we will feel in the future – good at negatives (Prune icecream). Impact bias -ability tp predict accurately. Move towards positive rather than away from negative.

2 -What pain have you linked to forming this habit in the past (if any) – ecology check (nlp) will it affect others or be impacted by them? More pain with habit than not doing it. Bernard Baruch”be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and thos who mattrr don’t mind”

3 – What will it cost you if you don’t form this new habit, now? – leverage on self required to maintain. Pain at emotional level. Even if just disatisfaction with self.

4 – how does that make you feel – follow on from 3

5 – what pleasure will you recieve from forming this habit, now? – connect to postive emotions

6 –  same as 4

With these question – framing is complete.

4 – 10 step process for forming a new empowering habit

 1 – Develop an identity for changing your habits
Having habit connected to deep identity supports habit change.
Three levels of changing a habit: identity, behaviour and appearance.
Develop belief that you can start and commit to behaviour rather than just doing behaviour (opposite to mini-habits)
2 – Brainstorm and identify the cue(s)
Two types of cues: constant (i.e.waking up) & contextual (irregular i.e. being stressed).
Have a morning & evening cue to ensure habit is done.
Build new habits onto existing ones and their cues.
 Overall a good book that ties three areas of interest to me: coaching, NLP and research on habits. A solid look at habits.
3  – Decide the smallest action you’re going to commit to in order to start
Same as mini / tiny habits – less intimidated to kick off the action. Even small habits have a sequence of actions. Look for the smallest way to kick off and build up.
4 – Consider what the future obstacles could be
Friction to not change: static (pre habit) and kinetic (during the action)
Common obstacles:
  • Unresourceful emotional state.
  • A scarcity of resources.
  • Travelling
  • A change in routine

5 – Choose a reward that will be worth attaining

Intrinsic vs extrinsic: Generally intrinsic (for self) are more powerful.
Use the power of anticipation to reinforce motivation AND when you have the reward, remind yourself of the habit formed.

6 – Give yourself public accountability

Sharing publicly increase the pressure for result and self accountability.
Consider a reasonable forfeit if habit / target is not reached.
Make yourself accountable for the habit, not the result.
Pick someone to be an accountability partner who won’t let you off the hook.

7 – Design an environment that supports your new habits

Make environment condusive to the habit.
Nudge” By making things easy to choose / do and OBVIOUS i.e. sports bag ready by the front door the night before waking up to go to the gym.

8 – Start as soon as possible and commit to the smallest action you agreed to in step 3.

RPM – Reference Point Momenum: a reference point is a justification for a belief you have. Positive beliefs, if recognised,  reinforced positve belief. More of them, close together makes habits easier to continue.
Don’t break the chain – aim to do continously.
2 minute rule (stolen from GTD) – If it can be in less than 2 minutes then just do it!

9 – Track the habit with a suitable metric

10 – Maximise habit by constantly and never endingly improving it

Marginal gains: Dave Brailsford at Team Sky.






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