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This blog has considered habits many times: Probaway – Search Box – Habit. This just released book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, was therefore eagerly read, and it does deliver some new insights. The basic theme permeating the book is – Cue > Routine > Reward>. There are lots of stories, some of creating successful habits and several disastrous ones of failure to control destructive habits. The method for controlling habits was to first make a daily written notation of the habit cycle through several events. The idea was to identify what were the Cues, the Routines and the Rewards that were involved in the process. You must know what the precipitating cues are before you can anticipate what the behavior is going to be, but when you are in a conscious analysis mode you can decide what the best response to that cue should be and have a preplanned positive routine already in place mentally to substitute for the harmful routine to which you are addicted. The goal is for the new routine to bring you the same reward as the old bad habit. The aim of this procedure is to leave the Cue and the Reward in place, but to replace the destructive Routine with something desirable.

Among the fascinating stories was that of gambling addiction, and the predatory ways the casinos use to intentionally addict people to gambling their money away. One curious observation was that people who become addicted to gambling, when they come close to winning, pay more attention to how close they came to winning and don’t miss the money, but those who don’t become addicted remember clearly how they lost their money and recognize that a miss is still a total loss no matter how close it was to winning. Those who become addicted get a strong positive rush, a reinforcement when they come close to winning, but non-addicts don’t.

This is an interesting book to read, and it has many generalized insights which will help you develop better habits. Popular new mind-control, self-help gurus will be promoting these same ideas soon with specific techniques, but for a person who likes to experiment on themselves, the techniques proposed in this book will show the way to better habit formation.