Hey, it’s Michael. So check it out: I just finished “The Power Of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. Man, it was intense! Probably one of the best books I’ve ever read. I think that this subject — habits — is the single most important concept to understand if you wanna be on that stage, strutting across it, carrying a check as big as you are.
I took copious notes on this one. While I encourage you to read the book yourself, you should be able to learn a LOT from my notes. Here goes. Enjoy! And when you get all the way through this MONSTER book review, be sure to opt-in here to learn more about how we’re using simple routines to absolutely annihilate our own little sector of the internet.
Keystone Habits – Which Habits Matter Most
1) Alcoa hired Paul O’Neill back in April of 1987 as chief executive who made this company one of the safest companies. O’Neill knew that a company was only as strong as its employees. And Alcoa was having a problem with worker injuries. So from day one, he pushed to reduce accidents at the aluminum maker’s factories. O’Neill was laying the groundwork for big changes. He intended to demand perfection, or near it, throughout Alcoa’s manufacturing process. His first step was setting safety goals that seemed unrealistically high. Reducing accidents would test Alcoa’s ability to meet goals, he believed. Starting with worker safety, O’Neill ratcheted up standards company-wide. He also put a shine on the metal giant’s financials, presiding over Alcoa’s greatest growth. When O’Neill arrived at Alcoa in 1987, he wasn’t very familiar with producing aluminum. So he took it upon himself to become an expert.
O’Neill focused on bringing injury rates down. The individual workers were also devoted in changing habits. Alcoa became the safest plant. How did O’Neill change the safety habits – by changing habits. You can’t order to make people change so he focused on one thing that would spread throughout the company. Some habits matter more than others – keystone habits – which influence how people live, how they spend their money and how they communicate. Over time, keystone habits can transform everything. O’Neill focused on a few key habits, those habits that matter the most. O’Neill made a list of his top priorities; he wanted to make a difference. He had made a list of what he wanted to accomplish. He went to basics – focus on changing everyone’s safety habits, set goals for zero injuries period. This was his commitment. No one wanted to argue about union safety. O’Neill’s plan for no injuries was understanding why injuries happened in the first place and understanding how manufacturing was going wrong. He wanted an automatic routine requiring the union president to report any injury to O’Neill immediately and they would figure out how it would not happen again. By maintaining communications with the executives on how the injury happened he was building new corporate habits. Other aspects of the company started changing as well and they began measuring the production of the employees.
As new routines moved through the company, productivity increased. Safety habits filtered into other aspects of individual lives. Fewer injuries saved money. Typically when people start exercising one day a week, they automatically start eating better and are more productive at work. They are less stressed with their family, smoke less, use credit cards less and overall feeling less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers other habits and widespread change. Worker safety increased production and quality went up. Eating meals together as a family has shown children to do better with completing homework. Identify keystone habits is tricky – need to find them. Small wins.
2) In 2008, Michael Phelps (who, ironically, has been in a bit of legal trouble as of late) crawled out of bed and fell right into his routine. Eating breakfast at his usual time and then his exercise routine – stretching and then a 45 minute swimming routine. Phelps had started swimming at seven years old. A local swimming coach saw his body size and knew Phelps could become a champion. Phelps was emotional and had problems calming down before races. Coach Bowman had him work on exercises to calm himself down. Phelps had a capacity for obsessiveness. Bowman had to create a habit for Phelps that he could use before each race. Bowman encouraged Phelps to go home each night and imagine the perfect race – no book or video – just a mental picture of his perfect race. He would imagine himself jumping off the block and swimming perfectly. Bowman would tell Phelps to “put in his video tape” to encourage Phelps to finish his practice like it was the perfect swim he was the winner. It worked, he became faster and faster. Bowman established a few key habits into Phelps life. A small win and how keystone habits create widespread changes and bigger achievements become reachable. Visualization and relaxation habits took over and his routine went as planned. Phelps had encountered moisture in his goggles as he started his final race during the Olympics. But he had been prepared as he had trained for goggle failure. He estimated how many strokes the final lap would take and increased his final lap. He was relaxed and anticipated hearing the crowd roaring. He had timed it perfect. After the race, he was asked how difficult it was swimming blind – he had prepared. One additional victory in a lifetime of small wins.
A worker at Alcoa plant had jumped a barrier and a tragic accident killed the employee. Supervisors had seen the employee jump the barrier in the past but never addressed it. An immediate meeting was held to discuss the incident. New safety policies were then written up and yellow caution warnings were painted on railings. A small win for Alcoa – they were saving lives. Just as Phelps’ routines had nothing to do with swimming and everything to do with his success.
3) When O’Neill was working for the government he was assigned to focusing on the high rate of infant fatalities. He was tasked with figuring out why so many fatalities. Premature births was at the top of infant fatality which was determined to be due to the pregnant mother’s malnutrition. Expecting mothers needed to be educated on improving their diets before becoming sexually active. The curriculum in high schools needed to increase and basic nutrition needed to be taught to the teachers so they could educate the students. It was discovered that the teachers were not properly trained in nutrition themselves and this was the root cause for improper diets of pregnant women. At the collegiate level they implemented proper eating courses so teachers would be properly educated. These keystone habits encouraged change. The same thing can happen in people’s lives. Shaking up someone’s life to change their habits. As in obesity, they discovered patients would make the changes suggested by their physician – exercise, eat proper foods, take the steps instead of the elevator, etc. They suggestions worked at first but then they eventually slid back into their old habits. Piling on too many changes at first made it difficult to stick with any of the changes. Compiling a journal of what they ate and when patients finally started seeing a pattern. This keystone habit, food journaling, automatically helped with other habits without even focusing on them.
In 1996, O’Neill was being acknowledged for his approach on changing habits. He was creating cultures where keystone habits caused a change; habits that define organizations with core programs and safety philosophies. Not sharing an opportunity to learn is a cardinal sin. Cadets at Westpoint arrive with keystone habits already in place. O’Neill now teaches hospitals on keystone habits and maintaining safety habits. His safety habits live on today at Alcoa.
How Target Knows What You Want Before You Do – When Companies Predict and Manipulate Habits
1) Target employs data experts to determine consumers buying habits. One data expert was approached by other Target colleagues if he could determine which customers are pregnant without asking them. The data expert had a graduate degree in statistics and economics – he was obsessed with pattern analysis using behaviors. Target utilizes data collection – peering into customers’ preferences on purchases. Tracking buying habits, analysts could predict what consumers preferred in that geographic area. The American shopper in its natural habitat – who loved the outdoors, who exercised or who had children. Target was looking at their habits to convince consumers to buy more.
The data expert could determine which customers were pregnant based on their buying habits. Consumers are typically so tired once they have a child they will buy anything for the baby once they get to the store. Figuring out who was pregnant could make Target millions of dollars. They were taking it inside their minds and bedrooms and possible dangers of praying on consumers’ most intimate habits. Years ago, retail experts didn’t conduct this type of analysis. They tried to peer inside the consumer’s head, and some of these methods are still in place. Retailing tricks that have been around for decades. How we buy food – first thing we see when we walk into the store are fruits and vegetables. Positioning produce in front of the store doesn’t make sense – logically they should be at end of trip since they bruise easily. However, if consumers first buy fruit it makes it easier to buy the bag of chips or cookies in the middle isles. Retailers fill a side of the store with the most profitable products. And rarely do you find boxes of cereals in chronological order. You must search the complete cereal isle for a specific brand which triggers buying habits.
Target decided they couldn’t rely on this type of marketing, rather they wanted to find out the consumers’ buying habits – how powerful habits consume buying habits. Target focused on getting consumers to buy anything by studying their habits. Despite shopping with a list, 50% of purchasing decisions occurred when the consumer saw the product on the shelf. Habits are stronger than written lists. When that bag of chips is on sale, the consumer had not intended on buying chips but it was a habit. Buyers purchase about the same amount of food each time they shop, repeating past behaviors and relying on habits for purchases. Each person’s habits were different and unique to each person.
Target collected and kept track of habits. Target generated a number for each consumer who used their Target credit card. Computers kept track of that guest’s ID number and they were able to obtain personal information based on purchasing habits. There are also firms who sell consumers’ information to other companies to increase sales. Computers can generate age, marriage status, where you live, estimate of how much money you probably earn, etc., all based on our buying habits. It used to be customers only shared what they wanted companies to know. Target looked at consumers’ shopping practices. They would solicit coupons on what you didn’t purchase there. For example, milk. If they weren’t buying milk at Target, Target would send the consumer coupons for milk to win that purchase over. All this data is meaningless unless statisticians can figure out and process this information. They found the habits hidden in the facts – the more they knew about the person the better they could guess their buying habits. They could determine who had children by their buying habits and mail them fliers in November with pictures of bikes and scooters for purchase at Christmas time, or coupons for school supplies in June.
Target isn’t alone in its desire to predict consumer buying habits. Hundreds of other large companies have predictive consumer departments and analysts to determine buying habits such as Amazon.com, Best Buy, CapitalOne, Olive Garden, U.S. Postal Service, Fidelity, etc. But Target has always been at the top of consumer predictions – going as far as predicting which consumers were pregnant without asking them. The future of MLM and affiliate marketing — well, at least the top guys and gals — will be using this on a much smaller scale.
Habits of shoppers typically remained the same. Most consumers purchased the same toothpaste and deodorant for years. But what about those who had switched – why had these people deviated from their usual patterns. Peoples’ buying habits are likely to change when they go through a major life event, i.e., marriage or divorce. They don’t care that their shopping patterns are different. What is the biggest intervention of all – having a baby. As a result, new parents’ habits are more likely to change. They will start out buying baby supplies and then eventually start buying their groceries and cleaning supplies at Target and keep coming back. Major retailers will go beyond their study to find the expecting parents. A new mother’s new baby bag contains numerous samples and coupons such as Disney and Proctor and Gamble. But Target wanted to market pregnant mothers before they had their child so they could capture them before anyone else. Target had a baby shower registry, which gave Target their due dates. Or they purchased nursery items, but suspected and knowing are two different things. Timing became important on issuing a coupon. Shopping habits changed as their due date approached. They tracked when and what items were purchased during what term of their pregnancy and estimate due dates.
Then someone questioned how women are going to feel when they find out what Target has determined. A father had approached a Target manager as he was upset his daughter was receiving advertisements for baby items; she was still in high school. However, the father later found out after visiting with his daughter about the advertisements that she was in fact pregnant. He contacted the manager and apologized. The daughter’s internet usage had been monitored.
2) During the summer of 2003, a promotion executive was trying to sell a new song he knew the radio stations would like. At the time, the record division was going through a transformation similar to the data driven shifts done Target. Music and radio executives were using computer programs to forecast listeners’ habits. Hit Songs Science out of Spain compared the factors of a particular song on how it would succeed. Hit songs are worth a fortune. How do you make a song into a hit. Whenever certain groups came on the radio, listeners never switched no matter whether they liked the song. Songs that become hits are similar to other songs. Songs that we feel we’ve heard before, that sound familiar and we can soon sing along with it even though it’s a new song, referred to as “sticky songs.” Pattern recognition seeks out familiarity. Listeners are happy to sit through a new song so long as it sounds like one they have heard before. Listening habits allow us to separate different sounds so we can sort out what we hear. We react to the cues and rewards – it’s fun to hum along. As in the pregnant Target consumers, they were happy to use coupons they received in the mail unless they felt they were being spied on. How do DJ’s get listeners to continue to listen to a new song – by listening to it long enough to become familiar with it – making unfamiliar seem familiar.
3) Early 1940’s, U.S. government started shipping much of the nation’s domestic meat supply to Europe during World War II. Many restaurants started using horse meat. The Department of Defense approached specialists to figure out how to get Americans to eat organ meats while other typical parts of meat were shipped out. Housewives had to know how to make the meat look appetizing – how to add liver into meatloaf. After World War II ended the community on food habits dissolved but organ meats had been integrated into the American diets. Liver had become a special meal. Since then the U.S. government has launched other efforts to improve out diet – the five fruits and vegetables a day pyramid. The only successful governmental effort was the use of organ meats. Computer programs were pretty good at finding consumers’ habits, but some hadn’t been adopted. To be a habit it had to be adopted. Similar to the new song, it was played sandwiched between two popular songs.
Target decided to take a step back and consider their marketing options. They had the ability to send out fliers to certain consumers. They had the ability to send out fliers for products that consumers typically purchased. Target decided to mix it up to show they weren’t spying on a pregnant woman by putting a lawn mower next to a baby crib to show the flier looked random. They found out if the pregnant woman assumes she hasn’t been spied on she will use the coupons and assumes everyone else received the same coupons. The same process DJ’s used to get listeners to listen to a new song. Target’s revenues grew immensely drawing heightened categories to mom’s and babies. Whether selling a new song, a new food or a new crib, the lessen is the same. If you dress a new something in old habits it is easier for the public to accept it.
4) The usefulness of this lessen isn’t limited to large corporations, government agencies or radio stations, these same lessens can be used in how we live. The YMCA utilized statisticians to stay competitive. They gathered data from consumers as to what they wanted. People wanted fancy exercise equipment and fancy studios. Facilities’ attractiveness caused them to join initially, but retention was driven by emotional factors. If they knew a trainer’s name or knew a name at the workout center they were more inclined to continue going. If YMCA satisfied them, they would be happy; they needed to take into consideration patterns. To sell a new habit, wrap it in something everyone already knows – like where to meet friends. We want to visit places that satisfy our social needs and we are better willing to stick to it. To market a new habit you must understand how to make it familiar. Target’s helpfulness by sending the right coupons.
The Power of a Crisis – How Leaders Create Habits Through Accident and Design
1) An 86 year-old man from Rhode Island had fallen at home and had bleeding in his head. He remained unconscious when being wheeled into the operating room for surgery to drain the blood in his head. Once in the operating room the nurse called it to the surgeon’s attention that the paperwork didn’t show which side of the head the hematoma was on nor did they have a consent form from the family approving the surgery. The surgeon’s response was that he had already seen the x-rays and the hematoma was on the patient’s right side, that he needed to do surgery immediately to save the patient and he would sign the consent. The nurse suggested they pull up the x-rays again to be sure, but the surgeon decided it would take too long and they needed to move quickly.
The surgeon always wins. There was no hematoma on the side of the patient’s head the surgeon had cut into. They quickly shifted to the left side of the patient’s head and shaved, cut and drilled again and the hematoma was quite visible. The patient never regained consciousness and died two weeks later. The family sued the hospital and surgeon alleging there was too much stress on the patient after going through two surgeries. If he had not gone through two surgeries he may still be alive. The hospital paid a settlement and the surgeon was barred from practicing at that hospital.
During a surgery, if anyone questioned a procedure they should request a time out to discuss the concern. A nurse had requested such a time out and the surgeon was extremely upset over someone possibly challenging the procedure. The surgeon stepped out of the operating room. He was supposed to be there and listen to her opinion but he told her if he wanted her opinion he would ask for it. She retrieved the doctor and she never contradicted a doctor again. Some physicians were okay with it and others were not. To deal with tensions of the physicians the staff dealt with informal procedures. They used colors to classify the doctor and what type of behavior that physician had. Habits emerged on the fly of physicians’ attitudes and these organizational habits were not just in hospitals. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, the right habits emerge.
2) It would appear like most organizations make rational decisions based on how companies work with small inputs mixed into a company’s decision. Organizational habits, routines, are enormously important. Routines provide unwritten rules and allow workers to provide input and reduce uncertainty. Habits are critical and policies would be lost without routines. A company’s common goal is to make as much money as possible. But most companies aren’t big happy families – their executives compete with each other and sabotage each other. However, rivalries won’t destroy a company. Organizational habits offer routine habits. Routines and truces work perfectly when kept within bounds. Handbooks with policies and office procedures are typically given with a new position.
Nelson and Winters’ study of routines produced a guide to surviving in corporate America – creating successful organizational habits. And for them to work leaders must cultivate habits in a real and balanced pace. Such as the Rhode Island nurses, they were the only ones giving up power to strike a truce. They made extra efforts, they absorbed abuse from the doctors. Truces must be equitable and healthier balance of truces will emerge. If a truce is unbalanced then it will fail – the doctors were in charge, the nurses simply put up with it and survived. Allocating authority and a healthier balance might emerge. It is a good start but not enough. Creating successful organizational habits isn’t about balancing authority – for an organization to work leaders must cultivate habits in a real and balanced pace – make it clear who is in charge.
3) Years ago there was a fire in a famous well known London subway. A burning tissue was noticed at the bottom of an escalator. The safety inspector didn’t investigate it any further nor mention it to another department. They were told not to create any concern to arose commuters. Bosses and sub-bosses guarded their authorities and cooperation depended on a balance of power that relied on thousands of habits; a truce amongst them. The tissue was a stray warning that a bit of fuel had escaped. A passenger noticed a scent of fuel and another person noticed a fire. The safety inspector didn’t call the fire department immediately as they had been told not to contact the fire department unless absolutely necessary. Finally it was obvious there was a concern and they started directing people out of the area. The safety inspector headed to implement the sprinkler system but didn’t know how to use it. The director had previously complained about inspectors’ lack of training on fire and sprinkler systems but his report had not reached the proper office. No one understood how to use the sprinkler system and the safety inspector forgot the system existed. The fire became too big to fight; it was quickly becoming out of control yet people were still in line to get on a train. The fire department showed up about a half hour later and by this time the escalator where the tissue had been found burning was engulfed with flames. The buildup of paints over the years and the oxygen fueled by passing trains fueled the fire. The blaze expanded into the ticketing wall and tunnel. People started to smell the smoke and started to panic. Above ground on the street passerbys felt the heat coming up. The fire department had to hook up fire hoses from ground level hydrants instead of using the tunnel hydrants as no one knew about them. Later the injured persons asked why they weren’t warned of the fire. No one was trained on how to handle the situation and employees were trained not to panic commuters. Each of these informal rules made sense – the habit of tickets sales must continue, the clerks were ordered to stay in their booths and not worry about anything else to avoid lines building up. None of these routines were arbitrary, but all designed for a reason. Each truce created a balance and seemed logical until the fire emerged. One person or one goal needs to overpower the other. A truce can outweigh a danger. Like the nurses and doctors having a truce re authority, and Coach Dungee and Starbucks employees – opportunities were seized by crisis.
4) Errors occur, surgeons continue to perform incorrect surgeries and hospitals are sued. Local media reports on these tragedies. A sense of crisis emerges and the hospital becomes concerned they will lose their accreditation. Criticism isn’t a bad thing. It created an opening to address these issues and empower nurses and medical staff, to redesign surgical procedures and checklists mandated for each surgery, and establish precautions to avoid endangering patient’s health. Due to the crisis, the hospital became open to changes. Reform is possible only once a sense of crisis occurs. Safety rounds to address near mistakes were reported. Years ago surgeons wouldn’t address mistakes but now learn from them. Crises are opportunities to improve. The commuters were in danger when riding subways. An investigative final report after the subway fire produced recommendations of corruption due to the habits imposed on employees. New laws were eventually passed and the culture of underground subways was underway. New habits and truces made it clear who has power to address potential fires and other problems. Something needed to change to overhaul the patterns they lived each day.
Since 2009, the Rhode Island hospital has not had an incident and has since been acknowledged for recognition of safety. In 2010, a young nurse starting out working in the operating room had addressed the entire surgical team. During the course of their normal procedure the surgeon and staff would gather over the patient and go over the procedures of the operation. As a final step the doctor would ask if anyone had any concerns. The young nurse reminded them that they should also pause after the first and second procedures, something the doctor had forgotten to mention. Years ago this reminder may have ended her career, but the doctor thanked her for calling this to their attention. Doctors are more cooperative now. Role models are focused on team work which leads to an amazing place to work.
Starbucks and the Habit of Success – When Willpower Becomes Automatic
1) Travis grew up in California and his parents were functional drug addicts. They had jobs and the family took summer vacations. But Travis always felt safer when his parents were home and sleeping on the couch. One morning his father was making breakfast and started convulsing and passed out on the floor from a drug overdose. Travis had seen his father do this before and he and his siblings knew what to do. They rolled him on his side and called 911. Travis ran down the end of the street to waive for the ambulance to save his father. He was only ten at the time. His father was taken to the hospital, criminally charged and later released that same day. Travis didn’t want to tell his neighbors what had happened.
At the age of 16, Travis dropped out of school as he grew tired of being bullied and picked on. He moved two hours away to Fresno and took a job at a car wash. He lost that job and had several other jobs including a job at McDonald’s, but consistently showed up late for work and had anger problems when customers were rude. He couldn’t get along with people. Sometimes his hands would start shaking when the manager would yell at him that his line is too long. He felt like he couldn’t catch his breath and would even start crying during his shift. He often wondered if this is how his parents felt and if that is why they used drugs. A customer who had gotten to know Travis suggested he apply at a Starbucks that was opening up soon where he was going to be an assistant manager. A month later, Travis started working at Starbucks. Today, at age 25, Travis is now the manger of two Starbucks stores where he oversees 40 employees and is responsible for revenues exceeding two million dollars per year. He’s no longer late to work and never gets upset at work. When an employee started crying at work one day, Travis took her aside and said her apron is a shield. No one will ever hurt you. He had picked this up from one of his Starbucks’ training programs. He attends continuous Starbucks training programs which are structured so he can complete college credits. The training has changed his life – taught him how to live and focus, how to get to work on time and how to master his emotions, and most importantly – willpower. He owed everything to this company.
Starbucks has succeeded in teaching the type of life skills that schools and communities have failed to provide. Starbucks is now one of the largest educators. A new employee spends at least 50 hours in Starbucks classrooms and dozens more are training others at home. Training on an intense habit – willpower. Students who exerted more willpower would obtain higher grades in their classrooms and gain admission into more selective schools. Those with self-discipline had better academics than those with high IQ’s. Best way to strengthen willpower is to make it into a habit. Executives recognized the need to cultivate justifying selling four dollar cups of coffee. They would need to deliver a burst of pep with every cup. They trained their employees to put aside their personal problems, which led to good employees. Remaining focused and staying focused will lead to good employees. Make willpower a habit in workers’ lives. How did they take someone like Travis who had drug addicted parents and dropped out of school. What did they teach him?
2) Self-discipline. How does self-discipline work? In 1960’s, tests were conducted on four year-olds. They were brought into a room with a selection of treats including Marshmallows. They were offered a deal – they could eat one marshmallow right away, or they could have two marshmallows if they waited until later. Some of the kids gave in and ate the marshmallow immediately, while about 30% managed to avoid their urges and doubled their treats by holding off. They followed those kids in the study throughout high school and followed their ACT scores and friendships. Those who delayed gratification ended up with higher test scores, avoided using drugs and had more friends – self-regulatory skills that gave them an advantage throughout their lives.
Scientists studied self-control. Willpower can be taught the same as teaching a math class and there is more to willpower than earlier experiments had revealed. A study was conducted with a group of students who were asked to skip a meal and force the students to exert their willpower. One half of the students were asked to eat a cookie and avoid the radish while the other half were asked to eat the radish and not the cookie. Once alone, the cookie eaters were in heaven and the radish eaters were miserable avoiding eating the hot cookies. The researchers watched the radish eaters pick up the cookie and put it back down. After five minutes, the researchers entered the room. The radish eater students had been taxed. The students were then given an unsolvable puzzle to work on. Those students who ate the cookie worked again and again on trying to solve the puzzle. The radish eaters acted completely different – they were frustrated. Asked how they felt – some were sick of the experiment.
Willpower is a skill which can be conserved. Exercise willpower – the more time spent exercising on a regular basis, the more willpower individuals had completing other tasks. Willpower to quit smoking, to eat healthier, or lose weight. Strength spilled over into what they ate and touched everything. Study habits – willpower muscles strengthened and spilled over into other parts of their lives. Like eating a salad instead of a hamburger – teaching self-control. Self-discipline trickles into corporate America. How to give employees the self-discipline they didn’t learn in school or home. Jobs can be overwhelming and employees have trouble with self-discipline at work. It can take even more self-discipline after work.
3) In 1992 a study was conducted with recruited patients who were exceptionally unwilling, low income and elderly. Most had no desire to read a book and some had recently had hip surgery. The rehab can be agonizing and difficult to have the willpower to get through it. Patients must start exercising immediately even though it is painful. For some they would skip out on rehab. They were requested to write down in a booklet their plan and goals for completing rehab. Those who maintained a written plan progressed through their rehab. Their plans were built around how they were going to make it over the hump – simple cues and obvious rewards. They crafted self-discipline into rewards. Since exercise was crucial to recovery, those who didn’t write out a plan didn’t do as well with their rehab.
Starbucks – started at looking more closely what was happening in their stores. Inflection points – willpower lapses but they could do their job most of the time. But when faced with stresses – those employees would snap and self-control would fail. Starbucks focused on training programs with clear instructions on how to deal with inflection points. Starbucks developed new training patterns to respond to specific cues. Screaming customers – they taught role plays until responses came automatic. They taught employees moments of adversity by willpower points. An angry customer is yelling at you – what’s your first reaction? Scared and angry of course, that’s natural. Starbucks said we must provide the best customer service even when pressure is on. They were taught to listen to the customer, acknowledge the complaint and thank them and figure out a plan. Employees could write out inflection points. That is how willpower becomes a habit – planning a behavior ahead of time; a cue arrived, a routine occurred.
4) Howard Schultz built Starbucks. His father had cycled through lower paying jobs. In the 1980’s, Schultz was working for plastic manufacturer. Two years later, Starbucks came up for sale and he asked everyone he knew for money and bought it in 1987. Six years he had more than 1,000 stores. Now there are 17,000 stores in 50 countries. Why had he turned out so well compared to his other classmates? Where did he find the willpower? Schultz’s mother told him he’d be the first to go to college. She constantly asked him what he was going to do each day, did he have his homework done, what did he do in school that day. This proved him right. He was personally involved in every aspect of the company in first few years. Then turned it over to others but complaints started to appear concerning quality of the drinks. The employees were unhappy. Schultz began restructuring the company by bolstering employees and their self-confidence. This in turn earned the customers trust again.
Computer tests were given with instructions to hit the space bar when a six followed by a four appeared. This took willpower to focus on the test. Willpower fatigued some of the participants by having the instructions. Individuals with self-control did much better and the task was less taxing when following orders. Companies and organizations realized by simply giving employees a sense of being in control can increase work productivity. Employees took shorter breaks, were more productive and worked longer when given a sense of control based on how much self-discipline they brought to their jobs. Starbucks gave their employees more sense of control; turnover was down and production was up.
5) When Travis was 16 before he dropped out of school his mother had told him a story why he had no other siblings. His mother said she had an abortion before he was born – they already had two children and they were addicted to drugs. She became pregnant with Travis but couldn’t do an abortion again. She told Travis she had made mistakes – but having him was the best thing she did. Luckily for Travis, his bosses had given him what he was missing. A couple of years later his mother developed an infection from a needle and died. A week later his father had become ill and he drove back home to visit his dad in the hospital. When he got to the hospital they wouldn’t let him in as visiting hours were closed and his dad was sleeping and unresponsive he was told. Travis wasn’t employed at Starbucks yet – he didn’t have the habits, the willpower at that time. If his dad had died a year later after he had started at Starbucks he would have handled his response to not being able to see his dad that night differently. Travis’ father died that night. From that point on Travis always arrived to work on time.
Saddleback Church and the Montgomery Bus Boycott – How Movements Happen
1) In 1955, blacks were only allowed to sit in the back area of the bus. A white man entered the full bus and the bus driver hollered to the blacks to make room for the white man. Rosa Parks refused to move. Two policemen entered the bus and arrested her at the next stop. The civil rights started and it produced mass protests. Rosa Parks would become a hero unknowingly at the time. How a single act of defiance changed the world. Social patterns – the behaviors that occur across dozens and thousands of people as they emerge. Powers that can change the world, the powers that fill the streets with protesters. Influence of many movements, a three part process that shows up again and again. A movement starts because of the social habits of friendship and strong ties of close acquaintances. It grows because of the habits of the community and the weak ties that holds neighborhoods and clans together. And it endures because it moves leaders with new habits and a feeling of ownership. Usually, when all three parts of this process are fulfilled can a movement become self-propelling and reach a critical mass.
Understanding how social habits work helped explain why Rosa Parks’ act of rebellion resulted in more than just her arrest. The habits intervened and something amazing occurred. She wasn’t the first black to be arrested for this similar incident. In 1946, Geneva Johnson talked back to a bus driver and others who were arrested for sitting in the designated white persons’ area of the bus. Those arrested in similar incidents involving failure to move on the bus did not lead to any protests like Rosa Parks’ rebellion. A black man was shot and killed when he argued with a bus driver.
A year before Rosa Parks’ arrest, the majority of the city of Montgomery’s blacks resisted segregation. They also accepted the abuses and indignities that came with it. Why the change when Parks was arrested? The climate was changing – school integration was in the process. Racism was set in its way in Montgomery. Parks’ arrest triggered a series of social habits. Her network with social groups triggered the protest. Every black adult belonged to some type of club or church group. Within these social groups, Rosa Parks was well known. Her many friendships and affiliations spread across the communities. In general, most of us have friends who are like us. On the whole, our deepest relationships are with those who are similar to us, make the same money and spend similar. The power of those friendships and relations of Rosa Parks within the black community became apparent as soon as she landed in jail.
Rosa Parks phoned her mother to tell her she was in jail. Her mother contacted an attorney but her husband was against it and afraid for the family. The news of her arrest spread throughout the community. It was decided the blacks would boycott the buses and that they would stay off the buses. A natural instinct embedded in friendships. People have no problem ignoring a stranger’s injuries but the social habits of friendships kicked in. Many anticipated a one-day protest. Others who hardly knew Parks had joined in.
2) Imagine you are an established executive and well liked and have a network of friends. Someone asks you for a reference – that person isn’t a close friend and you don’t know them very well. How much of your own energy are you going to help. Weak ties are links that connect people who have acquaintances in common but are not tied to the friendship itself. Weak ties give us access to social networks where we don’t often belong. We talk to our closest friends all the time. When any knew opportunity comes along, you, your friends and co-workers already know about. Other acquaintances tell us about jobs we would never hear about from close friends. Weak tie friends can be as influential as close tie friends. If we are confined to views from close friends we are in a disadvantaged position to learn of new opportunities. Power of weak ties helps explains how a protest can expand into a broad movement. It was an extreme hardship when the blacks could no longer ride the bus and had to walk, or if you can’t have that cup of coffee. It was the sense of obligation that neighborhoods placed on themselves – peer pressure and social habits. Dozens of individual habits, habits of peer pressures that spread through weak ties. There was a risk of losing your social standing – like not joining your church or the local country club. You didn’t want to establish a reputation as not being a team player. When peer pressure and ties connect that’s when social ties begin.
In 1964, students from across the country applied for the Mississippi Summer Project – freedom summer. They were aware it could be dangerous as they predicted violence. The threat of harm kept many from applying. Some who were accepted decided to stay home. Why had some students participated and why had others not participated? Students who went probably had different motivations than those who stayed home. Self-interested motives – to learn about the southern way of life. Or to demonstrate the power of non-violence. A study was conducted on those whose individuals who had signed up. It was thought those who were more self-centered would be more apt to stay home – but that turned out to be incorrect. The selfish and the selfless were the ones who showed up. Or they thought those who couldn’t afford it would not go – wrong again. Those who were married or had full-time jobs enhanced applicants going south. The social habits were charted and tracked. Strong and weak ties had worked in tandem. Many signed on on the same day with other friends. Now the departure date was near and violence was anticipated; parents suggested their kids stay home. As the day approached to leave, people worked on coordinating rides – when can we pick you up. This was now a commitment – they knew who had been accepted so now you weren’t going to pull out even if you had second thoughts. You would lose respect from those who respected you for signing up. Once communities knew they were accepted, it was impossible for them to withdraw. The others who didn’t go belonged to college activities and clubs – they had little to face with deciding not to go in the college social group. The peer pressure of friends and social habits compelled participation.
At the time of Parks’ arrest, her attorney, Nixon, had contacted Martin Luther King who was 26 years old at the time and had just been in Montgomery for a year. He was asking for King’s endorsement and to hold a boycott meeting that night at his church. King was hesitant and told Nixon to call him back later on. Nixon didn’t stop there – he reached out to Ralph D. Abernathy to reach out to King. King went along with it and they talked to others to meet in King’s church that night. King was in charge of the boycott. Every black church in the nation would agree to boycott that Monday. Many knew Rosa Parks personally and were rallying behind her cause and it would look bad if they rode the bus. All black taxi drivers agreed to carry blacks for ten cents that day. As the day progressed they began to cheer as the empty buses went by. That afternoon, Rosa Parks was found guilty. The boycott and rally were the most significant in Montgomery history. The social habits of weak ties – the community was pressured to stand together. Most would not have stayed off the bus without the social habits. King wrote those social habits weren’t strong enough on their own, he was worried their resolve wasn’t strong enough. The boycott became a self-perpetuating source.
3) In the summer on 1979, a young white seminary student, Rick Warren, was focused on how he would support his growing family. He was studying to be a Baptist Pastor. He had read about Saddleback Valley in Orange County, California as a growing community that was un-churched. God had reached out to him one day he said and told him to plant a church here – an admonition like the civil rights movement. Religion had to be marketed and how would he do this. He would speak to people in their own languages, see their friends and read the Bibles messages. He would need groups of people rather than individuals to encourage participation. He and his family moved to Orange County which is now one of the largest parishioners.
Warren became one of the most influential leaders. He knew he couldn’t scare people into following Christ’s example or it wouldn’t last long. People will follow Christ because it is who they are. When Warren first arrived he spent weeks going door to door determining why people didn’t want to go to church. It was boring, not applicable in their lives or they hated dressing up. He set out to address each complaint and told them they could wear anything they wanted to. He had practice titles – how to handle discouragement and how to survive under stress and daily problems. It started to work. He eventually had to rent school auditoriums to hold church services. During service one day, Warren felt dizzy and was unable to continue the service. He had experienced anxiety problems in the past. He had to take about a month off from the church and slowly recuperated. Why he was having panic attacks, he wasn’t sure he could return. Then he had another revelation – he would return to Saddleback and figure out how to make the church less work for him. He set up small groups at members’ homes. The small groups of close friends would help in faithfulness and spread to the others. People in the small groups grew to close ties and discussed aspects of their daily lives. They talked about the Bible and prayed together and the rest of time they gossiped and discussed their families. Warren needed to teach people to live with Christian habits and to live with those guided habits. The new habits would be to focus on the church – spiritual growth through the congregation instead of himself. He would expand his church by relying on the strong and weak ties. He needed to teach people habits that they could rely on.
Montgomery’s boycott threatened taxi drivers who were allowing blacks reduced rates. King doubted the black community would be able to continue with the boycott. King was hit with a bomb outside his home. The Sheriff pulled King aside and told him he was helping to avoid a riot. King told the blacks to love your white brothers no matter what they do to us; love your enemies and pray for them. Messages he had been preaching for weeks. A plea for nonviolence and it would bring victory. The blacks were adopting the new habits King was preaching. King preached what we are doing is right and just and people began propelling the movement. Others took charge and people in Montgomery had to learn how to act. They learned new behaviors.
In the future years there were waives of killings and attacks. The protesters were using tactics and stood their ground. They were willing to forgive them and draw them closer. The boycott succeeded due to the social pattern taking ownership. A year later, the buses were ruled they had to integrated. Some say the boycott had little to do with ending segregation, that it was the law. The Montgomery protest was the start of the civil rights movements.
It was a long struggle for freedom and our generation has been called on to continue. Movements don’t emerge, they rely on social patterns from social habits. The buses opened up and focused on letting us be loving enough to turn an enemy into a friend. The protest led to reconciliation, freedom and justice.
The Neurology of Freewill – Are We Responsible for Our Habits?
1) Angie Bachman started to become bored and genuinely alone once her children were off to school each day. She made a deal with herself that if she was able to keep busy at home without going crazy until noon she would leave and do something fun. She decided to drive to the riverboat casino. Iowa had just opened up riverboat gambling. She gambled her $40.00 limit, listened to the band that was playing and ate the buffet. She felt wonderful and almost guilty for having so much fun alone. She felt like the untalented one in her family since she was only a stay-at-home mother. She started going once a week to the casino – a reward to herself for being a good mother and wife. She set her limits each trip and initially only stayed an hour. In the beginning she could hardly make her money last an hour. But in six months she had figured out how to stay longer and many times still have money when she left. Now she was receiving coupons for free buffets.
Gambling might be difficult for some to resist. It is a vice that is productive of every possible evil. Few people gain by gambling and people need protection from their bad habits. Prostitution, gambling, illegal drugs, sexual relations outside of marriage, are all habits that legislatures have tried to discourage with effective laws.
Bachman’s parents were smokers and became ill with cancer. She was gone from the family home visiting and caring for her parents. Her family and friends continued on with their lives without her which led to her gambling even more. She still had rules and limits but now she had been gambling for years now. The higher limit tables paid better she thought. She was acting automatically at the tables; she would win sometimes and lose sometimes. Eventually the casino qualified her to play with credits. Bachman’s rules became more flexible as her wins and loses expanded. The casino had records of her wins and loses – she no longer kept track on her own. Eventually she didn’t have enough in her bank account to pay the utilities and had to ask her parents for a small loan. And then another and another.
Bachman had never had problems with drinking or overeating; she was a normal mom. The compulsion she felt to gamble when she wasn’t able to go to the casino caught her off guard. The rush of going – it was so unexpected she hardly knew it was a problem until it had taken full control of her life. One day it was fun and the next it was uncontrollable. Bachman started going to the casino every day. She would go when she fought with her husband or felt unappreciated by her kids. At the casino, the high of winning was immediate and the pain of losing passed so fast. Her mother accused her of wanting to be a big shot; that she was gambling because she wanted the attention. That wasn’t it – she simply wanted to feel good at something and it made her feel like she had a skill. Her debt at the casino escalated to $20,000.00 and she had kept it from her husband. Her mother finally cut off the giving and she was forced to file bankruptcy. She thought the compulsion would be gone after losing everything and thought she had a plan. But it wasn’t that easy. Years later after she had lost thousands of dollars and disappointed her family, she wondered how much responsibility she had to bear. Wouldn’t everyone else have done the same thing.
2) A man vacationing at a camp ground with his wife had called emergency. He reported he thought he had killed his wife – he thought she was an intruder. They had met some men at the campground and he thought he had seen one of these men laying on top of his wife. He told police he fought with the man until he realized it wasn’t a man, it was his wife he had choked. He had started sleepwalking when he was a child. He would wander into another room or outside the house – it became a family joke. Once he was married, his wife took precautions so he wouldn’t leave the house.
We follow what exists in our heads. He had to be prosecuted for the murder even though they had a perfect marriage until that night. Prosecutors asked sleep specialists to examine him – he had been unconscious when he killed his wife and he should not be held responsible for killing her. Neurology of habits and freewill have become more sophisticated and those defenses have become more compelling by our Courts and juries. Some habits are so powerful we are not responsible for what we do. Sleepwalking is an annoying problem and sleepwalkers can behave in strange ways such as driving car or cooking a meal – but no recollection of doing so.
There is a distinction between sleepwalking and sleep terrors. In sleep terrors the activity in the brain is different than when we are awake. Sleep terrors can be a grip of horrible anxiety. They are habits so ingrained in our anatomy they appear without knowing and there is no chance anyone will be able to override a sleep terror. They are powerful emotions – like running for your life – that we react like our deepest habits tell us to. Sleep terrors have followed the ingrained habit to follow the urge no matter what someone is saying. The causes aren’t understood but they can be violent terrors. Some people have been found not guilty from acting from a sleep terror. One guy had a sleep terror but awoke in the middle of it as he was in the process of raping a woman. He stopped and called the police and was subsequently found not guilty. He had no idea what or why he was doing it.
Like the man who had killed his wife, he admitted he killed her but he had no control of his own actions that night. He was acting on a perceived habit – the instinct to fight an attacker and protect a loved one. No chance his higher cognition would react. He had known he had a problem with sleepwalking but nothing foreseeable that he would ever kill his wife. He could not have anticipated his crime. He was found not guilty and did not belong in an institution. The Court recognized he would feel a sense of guilt the rest of his life and he was devastated by his crime. He was almost a victim himself. Like Bachman, she was also devastated by her actions with gambling, by following ingrained habits. By law, she was responsible for her actions.
3) Three years after Bachman declared bankruptcy her father passed away. She had spent the last ten years back and forth caring for her parents. A month later her mother passed away. She couldn’t think about anything else other than losing both her parents. She later learned she had inherited over a million dollars from her parents. She and her husband relocated to Tennessee and she bought them a new family home with the inherited money. Casino gambling wasn’t legal in Tennessee and she had wanted to move away so she wouldn’t be tempted to gamble again. Then she was reflecting about her parents – how would she survive. It had now been years since she had gambled but she was feeling desperate she told her husband. They had returned to their home town and she was feeling depressed and told her husband she wanted to gamble – a one time visit. The manager remembered her and confronted her and they discussed her life and her problems. Then she sat down at a blackjack table and lost a few thousand dollars. The casinos studied customers’ habits like Bachman. They knew how often a gambler would visit and how much they would spend. They would send out coupons coercing them to the casinos. Workers were taught to visit with the customers and find out their spending habits. Even after she had confronted the manager and the casino was aware of her bankruptcy and gambling debt she was still offered hotel stays, limos, concerts, etc., from the casinos. Then free plane tickets, rooms and concerts and $10,000.00 to play free. Eventually she started saying yes. Her gambling habits took over as soon as she walked in and she was withdrawing from her bank account and playing $200.00 to $300.00 per hand. One trip to Vegas she had left with $100,000.00 and came home with nothing. She seemed to still have money in her account and didn’t think about money. She tried to slow down but casinos didn’t quit with the offers.
Her family had returned again to her home town for a funeral and she hit the casino and lost $250,000.00 in no time. She had told herself this is what her parents wanted her to do – enjoy her life. But she finally realized she had two choices – get control of the lying to herself or admit she had lost what her parents had worked so hard to save. Soon the losses were too big to ignore. She was getting more and more depressed after her parents passed away. This desperation started once she knew how much she had lost – how could she win it back. The casinos would keep calling and she would say yes thinking she would win it back.
A study was done where participants laid inside an MRI to watch slot machines spin across. There were three outcomes they would watch for – to win, lose or a near miss (where a win almost matched up) to see the interest in the brain to recognize it as a habit or an addiction. Neurological habits were much more active with near misses. To those participants without a gambling problem, they realized a near miss you still lose. People with gambling problems got a high from the near misses and that is why they gamble longer than others without a gambling problem. The near miss triggers those habits that causes them to put down on another bet. The non-gamblers got a dose of apprehension – quit before it gets worse. It is unclear if people are born this way, but it is clear that real neurological habits differ. Gaming companies are well aware of this – casinos are set up to have more near misses. Scratch off tickets have become the same – you almost win every time.
Certain medications have been known to cause individuals to gamble away their money. The medications can affect the brain and suppress their control over their obsessions due. However, obsessive gamblers can’t blame their addictions on medications; they can’t resist the cravings.
Bachman figured she lost over the years about $900,000.00 and had told the casino she was almost broke but they gave her credit anyway. They always promised her she would win. She played $400.00 a hand and told herself when she got up a little bit she would quit and was eventually up $100,000.00. She had been given a credit of $125,000.00 and she wanted to win this amount back. She finally hit a hot spot and had enough to pay off the note – but if she continued playing smart she would be ahead. Then the dealer started hitting and she ended up losing all of her money again. She went back to the room and confessed to her husband it was all gone. He told her it was okay, she had lost before and we we still have the house. But she hadn’t told him she had a line of credit on the home and had gambled that away.
4) Thomas murdered his wife, Bachman gambled her inheritance. Is there a difference how a society should assign responsibility. Thomas never chose to kill. Same logic, Bachman never intended to gamble her money away but she was also driven by powerful decisions. She moved to a state where gambling wasn’t legal; she felt ashamed. There was one distinction – Thomas murdered an innocent person and Bachman lost money. Bachman was held accountable for her deeds. The Casino tried to collect from her bank and sued her demanding she pay her debt plus interest. The Casino had prayed on her habits. She was reacting automatically to temptations the casino put in front of her and she could no longer control her behavior. There was no common law duty obligating a casino to stop the solicitation for someone like Bachman. A gambler could be put on a voluntary list of exclusion to gamble and she never did this.
Outcomes are fair – why are some easier? Some habits are easy to control, other habits are out of reach. Gamblers act without choice and their habits reined supreme. Habits are not as simple as they appear. Habits that are once routed in our minds are destiny. We can chose our habits but they can be changed if it is understand how they function. Habits impact what we eat, how we do business or whether we exercise. Each has a different cue and offers a unique reward whether simple or complex. Every habit no matter its complexity can be changed – the most serious alcoholic can become sober. To modify a habit one must accept the hard work and identify the rewards and find alternatives. You must have control and be self-disciplined and use it. Thomas, however, didn’t know the habits would kill someone, he was not aware of his habit. Bachman knew she had habits she could have changed. That is the point of this book. Most patterns of how we sleep, how we spend our time, how we spend our money – we know these habits exist. Understanding the habits that we can change and that we have the responsibility to change them. The power of habit becomes easier to grasp and the option is left to get to work on changing it.
We have the freewill to change and free to believe that change is possible. There are methods in creating that belief in changine habits and with sufficient practice it can be done easily. You believe it can be changed, you make it a habit and the change becomes real – the real power of habits. Habits are what we chose them to be. A habitual habit starts to seem inevitable. Invisible decisions surround us each day. Like a body of water – it can be redirected to a certain path.
A Readers Guide to Using These Ideas
The difficult thing about studying the science of habits is people want to know the specific patterns for changing the habit. Formulas do exist but there are thousands and they differ from person to person and behavior to behavior. Giving up cigarettes is different from curbing overeating. Each person’s habits are driven by different cravings. The book is about a frame work for understanding how habits work and a guide to experimenting how they might change.
Some habits are more complex and require further study. But it can occur as to why they exist and how they function. It’s a place to start and paired with deeper lessens can lead as to where to go next. Change is not always fast or easier but with time and effort it can be changed. You must identify the routine, experiment with the rewards, isolate the cue and have a plan.
Step 1 – Identify the routine. Identify the components of your hoops and look for ways to implant new routines. For example, a bad habit of going to the cafeteria every afternoon for a cookie which can also add on a few extra pounds over time. Try to stop by putting a note on your desk – no more cookies. Getting the cookie each day feels good at first, but then you feel bad as you want to stop the habit. And tomorrow will be different, but tomorrow the habit takes over again. How do you start diagnosing and change this behavior – by figuring out the habit loop. The first step is to identify the routine. In the cookie scenario the most obvious habit is to eat the cookie; that’s what’s in the loop. What is the cue for this routine – hunger, low blood sugar, boredeom. And what’s the reward – a change of scenery, burst of energy, visiting with colleagues. To figure it out you will need to do a little experimentation.
Step 2 – Experiment with rewards. Rewards are powerful because they satisfy cravings. We are not aware of our cravings. Like the Febreeze scent – they didn’t know the craving for the clean scent. Experiment with different rewards for a few days, weeks or even longer. There should be no pressure to make a real change. On first day of the urge, adjust your routine so it delivers a different reward. Instead of heading to the cafeteria, go for a walk around the block. The next day buy a doughnut and eat it at your desk. The next day buy an apple. The next day leave your desk and walk over to a colleague to visit for a while. Determine what is driving your craving – are you bored or hungry or need a burst of energy to survive. Are you just wandering to socialize and the cookie is an excuse. Satisfy the urge by testing four or five different options. Jot down the first three things that come to your mind when you feel the urge. Then time yourself for 15 minutes before you act. Writing down a few words will help you think about what was on your mind and what you were feeling at the time and words trigger a waive of recollection. Determine the reward you’re craving. Experiment with different rewards so you can isolate the habit and identify the cue.
3) Isolate the Cue. A decade ago a psychologist asked a question – why do some misremember a crime they see. Eyewitnesses often misrepresent what they see while others remember with near perfect recall. Is it because some people simply have better memories. That doesn’t appear to be the case – those with strong or weak memories were equally liable to remember what took place. Research indicated how close the witness sat to the investigator, how close the eye contact was between them, how friendly the investigator was, etc., had a bearing on recollection. Witnesses who smiled more were more likely to misremember. The witness’ stronger feeling of a friendship with the investigator the more likely they were to forget what occurred. Friendship cues cause people to please the person.
Our lives are the same way. It is hard to determine the cues that trigger our patterns. We might eat breakfast the same time each day – that is when your breakfast habit kicks in. What triggers that behavior. Identify the cue to determine the categories of behaviors of that pattern. Science has shown that habitual cues fit into one of five categories – location, time, emotional state, other people and immediate preceding action. Find the cue by writing down five things the moment the habit hits. The trip to the cafeteria each day – where at – desk; the time – mid-afternoon; emotional state – bored; who else around – no one. What action can be taken – answer an email. Note the same questions and responses the next day and so on. A few days later it will be pretty clear what is causing the cue – not hunger but a reward for temporary distraction.
Step 4 – Have a Plan. You can figure out your habit loop once you have figured out the reward driving your behavior, the cue triggering it and the routine itself. Then you can begin to shift the behavior and change to a better routine by planning for the cue and choosing a behavior that delivers the reward you are craving. You need a plan. Habit is a choice we deliberately make at some point and to then quit thinking about and continuing doing every day. A habit is a formula our brain automatically follows and the routine is to get a reward. To re-engineer that formula we need to start making choices again and the easiest way to do this is to have a plan. These plans are known as implementation intentions. By using this frame work you can learn what the cue, routine and through experimentation what the distraction is.
Write a plan. It may not always work at first, but on days it does work you may find you end up feeling better. Eventually it will become automatic. After a few weeks you will hardly think about it. The same time each day you find something else to do and the habit occurs without having to think about it. It becomes the habit. Obviously, some habits are certainly more difficult than others to change. This framework is a place to start. Sometimes change takes a long time and sometimes it requires repeated experiments and failures. But once you understand how a habit operates and you diagnose the cue, routine and the reward you gain power over it. The power of habit.
Did ya learn anything? Hope so! See my latest articles here.