It’s a bold statement to say that a book has changed your life. Instead, I’ll say that this book has been one of the many influences that have created a shift in my mindset.
I read several self-help books as a teenager but found most of them repetitive and full of cliches. Instead of learning new skills, I felt more like I had paid for a book of common sense. Common sense that I already had.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
I read this book during the summer this year. It’s a little different from the other books I’ve read, it focuses on habits – why we do what we do and how to change.
The book starts with the story of Lisa Allen, a 34-year-old woman whose husband had just left her for another woman. She was overweight, drinking, smoking and in debt. She then transformed her life, she quit smoking, became a marathon runner, bought her own house, started a master’s degree and remarried. All this because she changed one keystone habit – smoking.
The book goes through the ways in which habits are formed, and how to form new habits.
My favourite lesson from the book is keystone habits. The idea behind this is that by creating one new habit, other things fall into place. The result can be life-changing.
For example, exercising once a week could, in turn, encourage you to eat better, then drink less, then lose weight.
“Typically, people who exercise start eating better and become more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed.”
The book includes scientific studies, how a clever advertising campaign made Febreeze a household name, the story of Eugene, a man who lost his memory following an illness and how a the CEO of a company increased profits by focusing on one thing – safety.
For those have you that have read this blog for a while, you’ll already know that I quit smoking in October 2013. Since then, I’ve run three 10km races, I eat healthily and exercise almost daily.
This wasn’t always how my life was, though. Going back a few years, I could easily drink a bottle of wine a day while chain-smoking, whether socialising with my friends or on my own in my room.
I would wake up the next morning, feel my kidneys ache in my lower back and say ‘I’m not going to drink or smoke for the rest of this week’. I would then drive to work, find myself lightening up cigarettes at the usual points of my journey and find a bottle of wine in my hand on the way home from work.
I never really got out of that whole student lifestyle routine. For whatever reason, I could not seem to pull myself out of it.
If you go back a few years further, you’ll notice that my life has always been fuelled by some sort of addition. Whether the addiction is food, losing weight, starving, puking, smoking, drinking or spending – there’s just always something.
In short, I’ve never been very good at looking after myself.
As I mentioned in the opening of this post, this book was one of the many things that gave me a brutal shove in the right direction.
By focusing on one thing: being strong and having muscle tone – I’ve managed to change the way I treat my body and the way I live.
Now, I exercise almost daily, run a few times a week, I eat well, I hardly ever drink and I don’t smoke. I also finished paying off my credit card bill this month. For the first time in years – apart from my student loan, I have zero debt.
I’ve found a new habit that is quickly becoming an addiction. Yoga.
Although I don’t have the perfect yoga body, I can’t do the splits and I can barely touch my toes, I’ve been finding yoga is a way to uplift myself, a way to become strong, improve flexibility and release stress. When I find myself feeling restless, instead of getting a glass or wine or a packet of crisps, I search for one of the thousands of yoga videos on YouTube and give it a go. Even if I’m clumsy, fall over and can’t stretch all day down, I always tell myself:
I come to my mat to practise yoga, not do yoga.
Because of these changes, I find myself more productive at work, I sleep better, feel less tired, have less down days and have a much more positive outlook on life.
Hopefully, in a few months, I can posts photos of me doing headstands and bending my legs in bizarre ways. For now, you just get the basic moves. 😉
So tell me, what new habits do you want to create?
Have you read The Power of Habit? Do you enjoy books on lifestyle changes?