Changing Habits

Turning Over a New Leaf


Changing Habits


We are all creatures of habit. Over eons of evolution, our brains have developed ways of making our conscious lives less complicated. The brain’s ability to create habits has made daily routines feel--for lack of a better word--routine. The first time you tie your shoes, make pancakes, or drive your commute, it takes effort and concentration to complete the task. Yet, after many iterations of the same process, virtually any task becomes effortless--even thoughtless. It may seem to be common sense that tasks become easier after repetition, but habit is something that is distinctive from memory, or even cognition; it is something you do simply on cue.

In his New York Times Bestseller, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg shares narratives about the science and application of habit formation. From personal stories of lifestyle overhauls to successful commercial endeavors to increase profits and productivity, Duhigg takes readers on an explorative journey of not only how habits are made, but how they can be changed.

As everyone knows, changing a habit is not easy; they can seem like part of our personality. We might say that someone is “a procrastinator” when, in reality, it is a habit that have come to define someone. In his book, Duhigg shows us how habits--even bad ones--can be transformed to produce positive change.

Habits Pinterest ImageFormer smokers might create a habit of going on a run whenever they feel the urge to smoke (they may do this enough that they will exercise even when they don’t feel such urges). A person known for procrastination could increase their productivity by regimenting their work schedule (making the completion of tasks habitual instead of being arduous).

The creation and transformation of habits is one of the keystone tools of observation in the service design methodology at the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation (CFI). Much like how companies in Duhigg’s book, such as Target, collect data on every customer’s habits to increase sales, the CFI uses similar methods of habit analysis and observation to put forward alternatives to conventional healthcare approaches in order to produce better patient outcomes.

By observing the habits of both the patient and provider, and objectively looking at how interactions and processes form, the team at CFI can utilize this knowledge in developing and prototyping new habits on both sides of health care.


Blog post written by Phillip Kersten, UMR Writing Intern.

Phillip Kersten




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