Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Month: September 2016

The Power of Habit

Have you ever tried to change a bad habit? If you were able to do it, how? I just listened to a book that discusses the science of habits and how to change them. It could be one of the best books I’ve read this year.

What Is A Habit?

The book was Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life & Business. Habits are fascinating and they run our lives. Until reading this book, I never knew why I felt compelled to wake up every morning and go workout, or why I can’t seem to avoid eating a snack once I put my kids down for a nap. In The Power of Habit, Duhigg explains that habits are made up of three components: the cue, the routine, and the reward.

The Habit Loop

If you change the cue or routine, you can change a bad habit into a good habit (or vice versa). The book is filled with fascinating stories of why Alcoholics Anonymous works or how Pepsodent marketing created America’s toothbrushing habit. However, I like practical tips and tricks and it’s got some of those too.

The Essential Components of Habit Change

If you want to change a habit, you need to change the cue or the routine and/or take away the reward, which means you have to be fully aware of what acts as the cue, routine, and reward for each of your habits. You also need belief. That usually means finding a support group that can reinforce your new habits.

Habit Change Flow Chart

That seems easy enough, right? It’s really not that simple. What I discovered after listening to the book is that Duhigg has gone one step farther in fleshing out the path to habit-change. He’s got a habit change flow chart!

How to Change a Habit

This is brilliant and if you want more context for each of these steps, you can read more about them on I can’t say I’ve worked my way through the flow chart yet, but this makes a lot of sense and I can’t wait to try it.

Changing My Routine

So, why do I think this might work? Before I read this book, I successfully changed a bad habit unknowingly using Duhigg’s key principles. I used to put the kids down for bed, then grab something sweet to eat. The cue was putting the kids to bed, the routine was eating sugar, and the reward was that it tasted great and I got to relax without my kids begging me to share. I wasn’t even hungry. So, I decided to find something else to do once the kids went to bed. Now I pour myself a cup of decaf green tea every night. I look forward to it, it’s calming, and it doesn’t have the calories.

Without even trying, I took a page out of The Power of Habit and supplanted my old routine with a new one. That gives me some personal hope that this really works. I’m excited to see what else I can change!

Have you ever changed a bad habit? How did you do it?

Birthday Time!

birthday presents

Remember when you were a kid and it was your birthday?

Did you wake up early to find a heaping pile of presents waiting for you next to your spot at the table?

Did it seem like an eternity before your parents woke up, cooked breakfast, got ready, and finally declared that it was time to open presents?

Do you remember each and every gift you ever got?

Did you always get what you wanted?

Did you cherish each item?

Did you play with them all year?
For a few days?
A few hours?
A minute?
Not at all?

Are your memories more about the anticipation, the excitement, and the fun of having and opening presents?

Do you remember the event more than what you got?

I do. There are very few presents that I actually remember receiving for my birthday. I remember the tricycle I got when I was three. I came around the corner to the kitchen and there it was.

I also remember the birthday before I moved to Rochester, MN for my first internship when I got a bunch of pots and pans, a strainer, and toilet paper (yes, toilet paper). I was thrilled!

But mostly I just remember getting presents, not having them. I remember the fun event; the experience.

My oldest daughter turns 6 years old today and she’s also got a pile of presents. She’ll be getting three sets of legos, a scooter, some clothes, and a few other random items from her loving extended family. Then she’ll have a party tomorrow and she’ll get more things. In five years, she probably won’t remember any of them.

What if next year I asked everyone to get her an experience gift? A ticket or photo or teaser of the experience could still be wrapped up, but instead of clogging our closets, the presents would clog her memory bank and photo albums.

Would she then remember our presents and not just the event?

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