Power of Habits

12609433I just finished reading this book, “The Power of Habit,” which if you haven’t read I HIGHLY suggest reading it. Not only does it go about how habits are made, changed etc… it has real-world examples of how habits have helped, hurt or changed people.

There are two stories that have stood out to me as I have read this book, each is unique, but they both are a powerful testament to how having good habits is beneficial for you.

You may have heard of Tony Dungy, first black head coach to win an NFL Super Bowl, what you didn’t know though is the route by which he got there. Like most coaches, he started out as a player, who retired and got into coaching other fellow players. One of his first head coaching jobs was for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which when he took over were a dismal, bottom of the barrel NFL team in 1996. Over the course of the next couple years, Dungy drafted developed players that eventually ended up winning Super Bowl XXXVII. The year prior though, Dungy was fired due to the repeated losses the team kept experiencing in the playoffs.

Taking what he learned from his previous coaching experiences he became the head coach of the Colts in 2002. Now, even though it took some time to retool and develop his new team, Dungy ended up winning Super Bowl XLI in 2007. Once again, he was able to develop and take a mediocre team to the Super Bowl… Well is there a secret? You bet! I didn’t know this until I read this book, but Tony Dungy was keen on developing positive habits for his players. He could take an average player and develop him into a star, just by homing in on and working on certain habits. He didn’t need the best of the best to do it, but he would have his players create these habits that fit the scheme of the team. By creating habits in certain areas, the movements became second nature for his players, giving them a split second more than the opposing player. While a split second might not seem like a lot, in football it could be the difference between a completed pass or a sacked quarterback. He would have players literally go over and over things until eventually they just did it without thinking.

Everyone does this already in some form or fashion… like driving a car or even riding a bike. Most people when they are driving don’t really think about anything, but somehow seem to get from point A to B safely…

The second story that stood out to me involved an older man who experienced extreme brain trauma. After the surgery he was left weak, disoriented, could talk and unable to even swallow properly. Doctors thought he would never be able to live a normal life outside a hospital room ever again… Within a week he was able to swallow easily again… and another week passed, and he started talking normally… Eventually, he was discharged, but his wife was still skeptical about his recovery. Even though he had regained most of his motor functions, which are created over time and become habitual, he couldn’t remember people’s names, what day it was or even any of his friends.

A peculiar thing started to happen where some mornings he would wake up, go into the kitchen and make himself breakfast eventually climbing back into bed… A short period later he would repeat the same process again as if it was the first instance of him doing it. Eventually, his wife took him to a specialist who later concluded that the man was unable to retain any kind of new information. It was interesting to the Doctor… this man would be able to go on a walk and come home with random items occasionally, forgetting where he had picked them up. BUT he always was able to find his way back even if he couldn’t remember your name.

The story goes into more detail, but what it boiled down to was that this man was unable to retain any new information, but he was able to go on a walk around his neighborhood or find the cereal in the kitchen… He was able to do those things because before his injury those were “habits” that he had created and his brain without knowing would do these things without the man having to think about it. However, if something “new” was introduced, like a new sign along his walk, the man’s brain wouldn’t know how to process that information, which would cause the man to become lost.

There is so much valuable information in this book that I was amazed and learned numerous things about habits. It’s crazy to think how easy it is to form habits, but so hard for us to break them. I mean most people would rather sit on a couch then go work out at the gym. The list goes on and on and I hope I can form positive habits when it comes to parenting and numerous other aspects of my life.

If you are like me, I am constantly trying to cut out the “bad” and put in the “good.” The second I finished this book I wrote down habits I thought I had and classified what I thought were good and bad etc. Choosing one of the habits I wrote down, I started to work on changing and making it a “good” one instead “bad.” It’s not easy…. let me tell you, but like anything you need to stop making excuses and just do it!

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