Somehow a post on appreciating achievements seems appropriate for what is the last day of the working week for many of us.
A few years ago, quite by accident, I came across Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit, and I am very glad I did. It was an interesting read and gave me some good tools for creating habits I was happier with.
One thing Duhigg mentions—a crucial part of the book, in fact—is the habit loop. He tells the story of the development of Febreze and how hard it was to market the stuff. The company had a product that could eliminate (not just cover) even the smell of skunk in textiles and air, but they couldn’t sell it. The turning point came when they studied the habits of people cleaning their houses and realized that when the people were done making a bed, for example, they almost invariably tweaked the covers and smiled in acknowledgement of their labors. This led to the new, and successful, advertising campaign of showing someone cleaning a room and then, as a “minicelebration”, as one test subject expressed it, squirting Febreze into the air.
This advertising campaign is based on the power of the habit loop, which says that habits follow this pattern: cue – routine – reward. We automatically do something (the routine / habit part) because we experience some kind of cue, like a dirty room, and want a particular reward, in the example given the pleasure of a cleaner, tidier room. If we want to change habits, we need to identify the cue and reward in our equation. That helps us change the routine or habit that connects the two.
Here is a perfect illustration of the habit loop, a story, I’m sure, from long before psychologists came up with the term: When I was little, we lived next to a family with six children. It was a long time ago and the division of responsibility was traditional, as it was in our family at that time. The husband and father went out to work every day to earn the money and the wife and mother took care of the children and the household. My mother tells of our neighbor washing and waxing her kitchen floor while the children were at school and then making herself a cup of coffee, sitting down, and admiring her freshly-waxed floor before the school bus brought the children back. I think we can assume that six children with the help of the family pets made pretty short work of scuffing up the floor, but the mother was able to enjoy the results of her labor at least briefly.
What on earth does this have to do with curiosity, I hear you asking. I’m just wondering: How much attention do you pay to your achievements and the benefits or rewards of having completed a task? I pay almost no attention to that, at all. When I’m done with one task, I mindlessly start the next. For myself, I’m pretty sure that I would feel more satisfaction—and maybe be more motivated to clean house ;-)—if I took just that moment to look at and see (with curiosity ;-)) what I have accomplished.