By Charles Duhigg
Picture Credits: http://www.janav.wordpress.com
Look at the above maze. It is a no-brainer, easy to cross and get to the chocolate. A seemingly dull animal like the rat could easily get through it to relish the chocolate lying at the end of the maze. But, that seemed difficult, the first time the rat was put through.
An experiment conducted by Dr Ann Graybiel is a professor and faculty member at MIT. She placed roundabout 150 neuro-sensors in the rat’s cranium which recorded that the first time around, it took 13 minutes for the marsupial to get to the hunk of chocolate.
Progressively, the rat’s moments became faster and much more rehearsed. All the while Dr Graybiel was recording all the activity in the brain. Her research then showed that as the rat got used to the maze pattern and got to the chocolate, its brain shut down. The activity levels were similar to when the rat was asleep. This is the Power of Habit!
Charles Duhigg, the author states in a Ted Talk conducted at the TedxTeachersCollege, that despite having an achievement such as the Pulitzer prize to his credit, he could not get himself to simply stop eating cookies at the cafeteria while working at the New York Times building. Duhigg describes habits to be a combination of the cue and the reward. Every habit has a cue to start and an expectation of reward in the end.
Celebrity stylist Shaleena Nathani is an avid runner. In a YouTube video for 101 India, she describes a ‘crazy-high’ feeling she experiences at the end of her runs. This ‘crazy-high’ feeling or the craving for the Endorphin rush is the reward every runner is expecting at the end. Here, a cue could be the sea at the Marine drive, or just plainly placing workout clothes on the nightstand, the night before. The Habit Loop is comprised of the above elements — a cue, a routine, and a reward.
Further, Duhigg describes a study conducted by Walter Mischel author on a bunch of four-year-olds, called the Stanford Marshmallow Test. A marshmallow is placed on a plate in front of the kids. Walter says to the kids, that he would leave the room for ten minutes. The child has an option to eat or wait till he comes back. If the marshmallow is still on the plate when he comes back, the kid gets another one. The observations of this test stated that only 10-15% of the kids were able to resist eating the marshmallow. This is in fact a study in willpower. It was observed in fact, that the kids who were able to resist the Marshmallow were seen to do better at school, at work and in life. The observations of this test have been seconded by Dr Angela Duckworth a professor at the Pennsylvania University and author of the book ‘Grit’.
The Power of Habit is an elixir of information on how to maximise our capacity as humans and harness the power produced by habits. It describes in detail. From an individual context, the narrative moves to how businesses are essentially a product of the habits of their human resource. Duhigg describes how habits were the key factor in the success of Olympic swim champion Micheal Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and the likes. After reading this book, one can surely say, “The distance between failure and success is a habit.”