A few weeks ago I read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. The book is great, Duhigg explains the how habits impact the patterns and choices within our lives, as well as providing several practical examples. I’m a little surprised to say it, but I actually love this book. Duhigg’s writing style is easy to follow, and the stories that he uses to illustrate his points are genuinely entertaining.
I picked this book with the intent of developing a couple of habits. I’d like to be in better shape, and I’m also interested in continual learning. My intent was to read the book then apply it directly to these two areas. Duhigg’s process is very helpful, but it’s different than I expected. He walks through changing habits by identifying a reward that you can begin to crave, and then completing a routine to get the reward. In this way, you can create some powerful patterns in your life.
Duhigg also provides a number of examples of people achieving a wholesale change of their lives through altering a “keystone” habit. In other words, changing one small habit can be relatively easy, and by making this change you can begin more substantive habits. Finding this keystone habit is helpful.
After completing the book I have spent a few weeks thinking through the patterns in my life, what I might like to change, and trying to identify a keystone habit to begin with. Last weekend I made a choice and have been practicing this week. After a lifetime of staying up into the wee hours and sleeping in, I am starting the habit of getting up at 6am each morning.
Last weekend I spent time thinking through my patterns, triggers and how I might change this habit. I wrote out how I’d handle difficult situations (insomnia, traveling or having visitors). I’ve begun setting the timer on our coffee maker each night, and I timed the coffee to be ready exactly one minute after my alarm so that I’d hear the beeps of fresh coffee just after waking up. Finally, Monday morning I began.
I’m proud to report that I woke up at 6am every day this week. In fact, I’m surprised to say this but I find myself so eager to wake up to coffee that several times I have woken at 3:30 or 4:30, the going back to sleep after checking the clock.
I did have trouble going to sleep a couple of nights, but that didn’t affect me waking up. We also happen to be traveling this week, but I haven’t had any trouble following the plan that I laid out.
Here’s the great part, and what I’m discovering is the real reward. Instead of spending my “extra hours” watching TV late at night, I have more energy during my free time so I’m enjoying working on personal projects and reading books. Exercise wasn’t practical this week, but next week I’m going for a run or heading to the gym for a few minutes. In other words, I’m really glad I chose this as a place to start, and so far I’m loving the results.
Today is Saturday and I was awake and out of bed at 6:02. Believe me when I tell you that this is a change for me. Pretty fun new habit, and I hope it leads to others.