The Power

It takes a trigger. Or a cue. Something that starts it.

 

And when that triggered action becomes part of our routine, we are two thirds of the way there.

 

If we get a reward for taking that action, a payoff that we look forward to getting

 

…We have all the elements of a habit.

 

 

I’ve been reading The Power of Habit.

 

I’ve often worked to engineer habits. As a child, I sucked my thumb…far longer than I should have.

 

Of course people made fun of me, but my thumb was my own business.

 

Until one day when I was seven I decided I would stop. Me and Mom crafted a plan. We got this bad-tasting concoction meant to help nail biters and decided to put it on my thumb. Then, in case I forgot and accidentally put my thumb in my mouth and had that awful taste, I would carry a water bottle so that I could get rid of the awful taste.

 

So prepared, I went to school with determination. And never sucked my thumb again. I didn’t need that water bottle. I never tasted the nasty tasting liquid.

 

Habit kicked.

 

New habits can be tougher. How do I START doing something I want to do? I’m trying to sustain a habit of tracking everything I eat. I track all the healthy things no problem. But the dips into the chip bag? Just for 3 chips? I don’t track those. I am working on this habit.

 

Habits of stopping, habits of starting, these are all mine.

 

But there are societal habits, too.

 

How can we change what everyone else does? Turns out there are a lot of people who work on that problem.

 

Their efforts hit us every day in the form of advertising.

 

But my favorite story is the one about housewives in world war two.

 

In the 1940s, housewives had a lot more responsibility than they do now. The basics were harder to come by. I could have dinner ready in seconds. But a 1940s grocery store gave foods requiring a lot more preparation. If you wanted hamburger you had to grind it yourself.

 

And that’s before we bring rationing into it.

 

America had to ship food over to feed all the soldiers, and not just the ones from America. We supplied food to our allies.

 

Rationing was part of the solution, but then also they wanted to use all parts of the meat animal. Like all the organ meats.

 

We couldn’t afford to throw it away anymore. So the government had to come up with a way to get people to eat what they never had before.

 

So they put out recipes and suggestions for working these meats into dishes that were already familiar. Like, add some liver to meatloaf. We like meatloaf, right?

 

It turns out there is a principle at. People like what’s familiar, and automatically reject what is different, So this war campaign, suggesting small adjustments, was super successful.

 

30% growth in eating organ meats happened during the war. And since people had gotten used to it, by the 1950s, the number had grown 50%.

 

Wrapping the new habit in our favorite old habits can work.

 

This is a principle I call sneaking up on myself. I will wrap up something I’m REALLY dreading into something ordinary. I know I get so much work done when I ride public transportation to work. It takes all the pressure off.

 

Picking the right habits sets me up. This book is making me want to take a habit inventory and upgrade a few.

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