Don’t we all want to change at least one of our habits? We start a new week, a new month, or a new year with strong intentions of eating healthier, exercising more, being less judgmental… and then, three days later, we’re right back to our old junk food, couch potato, critical habits.
There’s a rumor that assures us we only need to stick to our new habit for three weeks in order to make it an ingrained part of our lives. Myth. One of many, in fact, that keeps us stuck in our ruts. Simple habits such as drinking an extra glass of water every day might be formed in 21 days, but “anything harder is likely to take longer to become a really strong habit…” Not great news for any of us.
Making Habits, Breaking Habits breaks down the psychology of habits to help us understand why we do—or don’t do—what we intend. For the most part, we operate on autopilot. Ever decided to take a new route to work and wound up at your destination with no memory of having driven there by the same old route? That’s because driving is such a common activity for most of us that habit easily overrides our intention.
But habit can work against us just as easily. Did you know that feeling depressed can be a habit? “Depression isn’t just… a biological disease of the brain; it is a way of thinking about what has happened to us and why.” Some of us actually have a habit of dwelling on the worst parts of our lives, which keeps us in a cycle of misery and depression.
Habit can lead to even worse consequences, as well. You’ve probably heard the heartbreaking stories of new mothers who go back to work that first day and, falling into habit, forget that there’s an infant in the back seat who needs to be taken to day care.
Examples such as these are used throughout Making Habits, Breaking Habits to show us just how much control our habits really have over our lives. On an optimistic note, however, the same research and psychological studies that give us this disturbing news also help us to overcome behaviors that we truly want to change.
The last third of this book clears away the many myths about change and shows us what really can and does work. It explains that we must first determine the difference between a habit and a temptation: “Temptations act on our basic desires for things like water, food, and sex… Habits, though…are now performed unconsciously.”
Another eye-opener is the truth about just how much self-control we have. That is to say, we have very little of it. It is our limited ability to control our actions that makes it nearly impossible to repress a habit. Instead, according to Making Habits, Breaking Habits, we are more likely to be successful with change if we replace rather than suppress habits.
Building new habits is as tricky as ridding ourselves of the old ones. We can make a conscious effort to pay more attention to the things we have to be grateful for and yes, we’ll be happier—until that effort becomes a habit. Then it’s just more of the same-ol’
If habits are sometimes our enemy, the best way to fight them is through knowledge. Making Habits, Breaking Habits gives readers valuable insight into how our minds guide us and even push us in every aspect of our life. Loaded with surprising information about the brain and human behavior, this is a book that lays out a strategy for taking charge of ourselves. We probably can’t beat all our habits forever, but Making Habits, Breaking Habits offers a battle plan that allows us to know the enemy and sometimes evade it.