How Your Habits Can Control Your Future




Blog post written by Philip Kersten


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 make 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 smoker” or “a procrastinator” when, in reality, these are just habits that have come to define these people. In his book, Duhigg shows us how habits--even bad ones--can be transformed to produce positive change.

Former 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 the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation (CFI) in its mission to change healthcare. 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 to put forward alternatives to conventional healthcare approaches in order to produce better patient outcomes.

Through service design, observation and design thinking, the team at CFI works to create solutions that do not fix what is the apparent problem, but what habit is at the core of the issue. This may lead them to discover answers that were very unexpected, or more questions to explore.

And just like in Duhigg's book, by finding that one key habit to change or tweak, you can have a great influence on someone's entire life and behavior. It's the challenge of innovation to use observation and the skills of service design and design thinking to pursue these ends.

Phillip Kersten is currently a student at the University of Minnesota Rochester, and an Intern Writer at CFI.

Phillip Kersten is currently a student at the University of Minnesota Rochester, and an Intern Writer at CFI.
















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