Habits are more powerful than your will – if you know how to make them work for you Two strings are hanging from a ceiling, one at the centre of the room, one near the wall. You’re asked to tie the strings together, but you can’t reach both at the same time. You look around the room and see a table and a pair of pliers. How would you solve the problem? When confronted with challenges, most people let habits rule them (in this case, ignoring the pliers, the creative tool at your disposal). That is not surprising when you realise that at least a third of our waking hours are lived on auto-pilot – ruminating over past events, clicking through websites trawling for updates and the like. Such unconscious thoughts and actions are powerful. But the habits of the mind do not have to control us – we can steer them. Drawing on hundreds of fascinating studies, psychologist Jeremy Dean – the mind behind the hugely popular and insightful website PsyBlog – shares how the new brain science of habit can be harnessed to your benefit, whether you’re hoping to eat moreveg, take an evening run, clear out your email backlog, or be more creative when faced with challenges at work and at home.
Habits help protect us from ‘decision fatigue’: the fact that the mere act of making decisions depletes our mental energy. Whatever can be done automatically frees up our processing power for other thoughts.