the power of habit

When I was studying my degree, I worked in a gym. I ended up working there for eight years, and I came to work up to 17 hours per week, which meant 17 hours of exercise, in a very variable timetable: I woke up at 6, and I usually arrived home at nights at 11 pm and went to bed one or two hours later. I started to take long naps of 2 hours after lunch both because I was extremely tired, and also because I slept very little at nights. And do you guess what happened when I quit that job and I began to sleep eight hours at night? Yes: I still needed to sleep after lunch! You might thing this is silly, but changing my sleeping habits took me a great deal of effort.

This book explains how we unconsciously create habits – bad and good habits – which will stay with us forever, since our brains need to do a lot of activities daily without wasting so much energy on them. And it also talks about how simple and tough is to change them; simple because you can easily know which habit you want to change and figure out ways of doing it; and tough since carrying that out will make you sweat blood. The good news is that once you change one certain habit, it becomes effortless to change others which might not seem related with the first one, and even more; once you stablish a good habit, it is as hard to break as the bad ones!

At this point I want to highlight something the author says: people busier than you go home after work, put on their running shoes, and go for a run instead of watching television. That is so true!

The habits in companies – here called routines – are also very well explained though several insightful examples of real and well known companies (I didn’t recognize all of them because they were from The States, obviously).

But the thing I liked most, although it’s only briefly mentioned in the book, was when the author mentioned the mechanism of willpower. Oh yes, now I understand myself better, thank God! 😀 It turns out that willpower is a capability we have a certain amount of for every day, so if you spend it on something, perhaps you won’t have any more of it later for other tasks. The author says we can work out our willpower little by little to get more (like muscular strength), but seriously, if I don’t do exercise first thing in the morning, I know I will never do it after work because my willpower is in a comma.

Summarizing, you must read this book if you want to know why our brains, and consequently ourselves, are so lazy sometimes.

PS1: I don’t feel like rating non-fiction books, sorry.

PS2: by the way, I want to mention that I began reading this book just when I started to go running, and it has helped me a lot; I’m even thinking about joining Joy in her Reader’s workouts post.

The power of habit
Charles Duhigg
Random House
286 pages