Monday, August 8, 2016

The Power of Habit Book Report

The Power of Habit” looks into habits and why we do what we do in our own lives and in our careers. In the first section of the book, the reader learns about the basal ganglia which is inside the brain and is essential for creating habits. Habits are done by a process within our unconscious mind known as “the three-step habit loop”.  The loop is made up of a cue, a routine, and a reward. The cue is what “triggers” the routine, such as the smell of cigarettes. The routine would be reaching for the pack of Marlboros and smoking a cigarette. Lastly, the reward could be the nicotine relieving your stress. The only requirement for the habit to be formed is that the pattern has to be consistent. Once a habit is formed, there is a craving for that reward that continues the cycle. For example, the craving of a tingling mouth after you brush your teeth helps fuel the habit of brushing your teeth every morning. Without the tingling mouth sensation, someone may not find their teeth ‘clean’ anymore and not always brush their teeth. If it is so easy to form a habit, how is it people are able to change their habit? Such as alcohol addiction or eating so much food? In order for a habit to change, one must create a new routine for the same old cues and the same old reward. This idea is known as The Golden Rule of Habit Change. The key ingredient that makes a reworked habit loop into a new permanent habit loop is belief. One must believe they can change their old behavior into a positive, new behavior and the routine will be more successful than turning back to the old routine. This Golden Rule of Habit Change is popular in addiction meetings, involving the 12 steps. 

The second and third parts discuss in further detail about habits and how habits are used in order to advance businesses. Part two talks about keystone habits, also known as “trickle down” habits. When a person changes one habit in their life, it trickles down to other habits in their life. If you change your lifestyle and work out more you may also find yourself changing other habits in your life such as less alcohol, more sleep, eating healthier, taking more vitamins. The keystone habits are used in some business today. Businesses also focus on individual’s habits in today’s society to use it to their advantage and profit off of it. Did you know that Target is capable of detecting when someone is pregnant? Creepy right? They can determine this all by humans habits when they become pregnant. Music companies also use different techniques such as sandwiching to make a song popular because humans have habits with music too. They typically like the same type of beats and rhythms when they listen to music. All these companies focus on individuals habits (based on the criteria discussed in part 1) and use it to their advantage to beat their competitors. Part three is the closing few chapters of the habits which discuss Rosa Parks, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and if we are responsible for our own habits. In the closing chapter, the author determines that no matter how strong the habit is, if we are aware the habit exists (such as smoking, gambling, addiction), then you have the ability to change it. However, there are some habits we form that we do not realize are habits. Habits  affect our life and businesses day to day and habits explain why we do what we do in life. 

My favorite “part” of the book was part 2 of the reading.  It related habits to business and business techniques to boost profits for companies. I am currently majoring in business finance with a concentration in economics and I felt like I was able to use this part of the book to my advantage when I graduate and go out into the real world. It gave me an idea of how individual’s think and how to use their habits to the company I will work for’s advantage.  However, the specific part of the book that was my favorite was the discussion of the Starbucks employee. Starbucks employees feel like they have a sense of agency when at work. Some businesses are allowing their employees to feel like they have self-control and have decision-making authority in the company. There was a finding that this really helped increase how much energy and focus they brought to their jobs. Some companies allowed their employees to choose their own uniforms or had the authority over shifts. Nothing tremendous changed in the businesses. Employees were unable to tell their bosses they wanted a $10 raise, but being able to have control over small things in their work environment really helped boost the energy and it showed how they treated guests.

I currently am an assistant manager in the personnel department and want to find different ways to ‘reward’ my employees in order to boost moral. I work at an amusement park for families that are on vacation. They want their ride operators to be friendly, however, this can prove difficult when it is 100 degrees outside and they have to push a “start” button and load little children on for 5 hours straight. The concept Starbucks incorporated into their firm to feel like employees had a say made me think how it was possible for me to do with my employees. I thought that maybe allowing them to pick their own rides instead of picking their rides for them would allow them to have a sense of agency at work. It could make them look forward to their job because they are able to pick a ride that they enjoy operating which will allow them to keep a smile on their face. It became my favorite part because I felt like I was able to learn and improve my ‘manager skills’ in order for the business to grow successfully and my employees to stay happy while on the job. 

This book discussed a lot of points we learned about in the lecture slides. One of the biggest relating topics was the “self-control” lecture slide. In the book and in the slides it discussed the marshmallow test. This is where a person gives the kids one marshmallow and tells them if they can look at it without eating it, she will give them another. It tests their self-control. This concept of ‘self-control’ was a big deal when the author of “The Power of Habits” talks about addiction and how to learn to use the “Golden Rule of Habit Change”. A person must have the self-control to not go back to old behaviors when learning to change their habit.
The lectures slide discussing “rewards” is one of the biggest factors in forming a habit and creating a habit loop. The “reward” is the third step of the basic habit loop and without the consistent reward, a habit simply cannot form. If all three steps are not completed, it is impossible to continue doing the routine. For example, the book talked about film on your teeth is a cue to brush your teeth (the routine). The reward would be a fresh feeling, tingly mouth. If the tingly feeling never occurred after the routine, the habit would not stick and the person would not continue brushing his or her teeth daily. 

In the beginning of the book, the author explains how a habit is formed based on a cue, a routine, and a reward. There was an experiment done with rats, chocolate, and a maze to see if the rat would ultimately learn that the “click” of the gate would mean it would get the reward in the end. The first time, the rat took awhile to complete the maze to receive the reward, but by the end, the rat was fully aware that the “click” of the gate meant it would soon get chocolate. I recreated the experiment with my best friend, a glass house and a slice of pizza. In the beginning, it took her awhile to learn the maze to get the reward, but by the end, her cue, “Go”, meant that she would soon get the pizza the quicker she would finish the maze. 

Every day you do things out of habit. One of my many habits is washing my hands to feel germ free and clean after using the bathroom. Most of the time, this is a habit for many people. 

Another one of my habits is to stay organized. It’s a habit that I got myself into at a very young age. Some habits are second nature to us and feel weird if we do not do them, while other habits are done purposely. My agenda book is my best friend. The cue that triggers my habit is hearing a deadline for a class, a syllabus given by a professor, a doctor appointment card, or my work schedule being released. Once these cues occur, my routine is to automatically put it in my agenda book so every single thing is at the touch of my hands. I type up my permanent summer schedule and tape it to the front cover of my agenda book. I take the syllabus I was given per class and type up a word document posting the assignment with the due date in chronological order. In my monthly calendar section I fill in doctors appointments, due dates for tuition, activities i’m apart of, when we do not have class, and birthdays. The weekly spots in my agenda book are used to plan how I want to spend my day. For example, for this course I made myself read 3 chapters a day of Endurance and within two days I would finish one of the parts of the book. By day three I tried to take the quiz and continue in this pattern. The reward? Self satisfaction and being able to cross my busy day to day schedule off with a high lighter. This habit loop is definitely not everyone’s habit. It’s something I decided to make apart of my routine every day. As odd as it sounds, just like the book stated, I have a “craving” for my reward in my habit loop for my agenda book.

Learning about habits and how they are formed can be key to solving “real-world problems” or addressing current issues. The book noted many different real world problems that were due to “bad habits” that needed to be changed into “good habits”. For example, the book talked about alcohol addiction and how a person’s cue would be stress from work, family, and life and the routine would be to get a drink with the reward being less stress. AA meetings were formed in order to change those bad habits into good habits by incorporating the Golden Rule of Habit Change. This meant that a person would have to figure out the cues that trigger the routine and whenever they felt those triggers arise, they needed to find a different routine that would give them the same reward as a drink of alcohol. For example, if a fight with your wife made you grab an alcoholic beverage in order to release your stress, the Golden Rule of Habit change would encourage you to maybe talk to someone about the issue to release your stress instead of alcohol. 

Learning about individual's habits can also help solve business issues if a company is having trouble making profit. They need to learn individual’s habits and what triggers them to do what they do. Procter and Gamble is in charge of the product “Febreze” and for awhile they were having difficulty selling the product. They first believed the cue to use Febreeze was a smelly house, but realized many individuals’s could not tell their own house smelled so they did not get in a habit of using the Febreeze regularly. After a while, they solved their business issue by realizing they could sell the product as a “final touch” to a clean room. Everyone feels satisfied with a clean room and the Febreeze would be the icing on top of the cake. This idea helped individuals form a habit of using Febreeze whenever they cleaned. This book allows an individual to think outside the picture instead of thinking everything happens for a reason and companies are just ‘good at their job’ because they went to college for that specific degree.