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Making Habits, Breaking Habits

Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick

By Jeremy Dean
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  • Contains 5 key ideas
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Making Habits, Breaking Habits by Jeremy Dean

Making Habits, Breaking Habits (2013) provides an overview of exactly what habits are and how we form them. Using this knowledge, it reveals how to create healthy habits and tackle the bad ones so that we can experience lasting, positive change in our everyday lives.

Key idea 1 of 5

Habits are repeated behaviors with little to no conscious intention.

What happens when someone throws a ball to you? In all likelihood, you catch it before you consciously realize what’s going on. This is a habit – an action repeated so frequently that it’s done unconsciously.

This first aspect of a habit involves automaticity, that is, not being aware of the execution of a given action, such as flicking on a light while entering a room.

Also, since repetition decreases enthusiasm, the act of performing habits is emotionless.

Consider your morning routine: Does it conjure up strong emotions for you? Or imagine looking out upon a mountain range for hours from your office window every single day. It’s wonderful and breathtaking at first, but, over time, the pleasure of seeing it greatly decreases.

In addition to automaticity, context also defines habits because of the associations you form between your surroundings and your behavior. Remember what it was like to be a student? The freedom of almost zero obligations and the beers you enjoyed with your friends? You may well connect the pleasures of socializing with the habit of drinking alcohol because of these early experiences, so now every time you socialize, you want to drink a beer.

But how are habits actually formed? Take a look at the following:

First, intentions create habits. For example, you want to have healthy, white teeth, so you start brushing them regularly.

Another way habits are formed is through explaining random past behavior by adding an intention later on. Say you always sit in the same place in your friend’s kitchen because it was the only free spot when you first visited her. Now, however, you tell yourself it’s your favorite place because the light is just right and the chair is comfy.

Finally, you can combine both the intention and explanation behind your habits. Perhaps you started biking to work because you were dieting, but you continue doing it because you enjoy being out in the fresh air.

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