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Today@Sam Article

Orientation Readers Review Common Reader Selection, 'The Power of Habit'

June 19, 2013
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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Hammonds and Bertaut pose with books

Sarah Hammonds, a senior dance major from Cedar Hill, and Chris Bertaut, a sophomore sociology major from Garland, are two of Sam Houston State University's New Student Orientation leaders this summer who were asked to read the 2013-14 Bearkats Read to Succeed common reader selection, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg, which is given to freshmen during orientation. Below, they discuss their thoughts on Duhigg's book, how it affected their way of thinking about their personal and shopping habits, and how freshmen (and the entire SHSU community) could benefit by picking up their copies.


Thinking about my Habits

Sarah Hammonds introduces The Power of Habit and shows how the book affected the way she thinks about her own habits and how changing one bad habit can impact others:

The Power of Habit analyzes, dissects and explains our daily routines, our automatic reactions and our behaviors, also known as our habits. The author shows readers how our habits are shaped by our routines and our routines are shaped by the perceived reward we receive as a result of these actions. Reading this book showed me how I have acquired my habits and why I have continued them for so long. By realizing the reasons for my habits, I have found that I, as well as other students, can shape my habits to fit to my everyday life and also be successful in life and at Sam Houston State University.

In exploring how habits function, Duhigg explains that habits are formed by a cue—a time of day, a certain emotional state or other people, for example—that triggers a habit loop, which becomes part of a routine when that habit is rewarded. An example of this would be with your school routine. One thing that I think that every college student has is an alarm clock, so we can look at the alarm clock as a cue for class. The routine is going to class and doing the work that is required. The reward is the course credit that goes toward your degree. The habit of doing this routine allows you be successful in college. While reading the book, I found myself comparing a lot of my habits to the ones explored by the author, such as what I eat, how and when I exercise and how I interact with my classmates and professors. Are my habits good or bad? The Power of Habit helped me to explore that. I also related those habits to how I can be successful at SHSU and my field of study in my future. If I wanted to be more successful I needed to learn which habits were useful and which habits were hindering me to reach my goal.

Breaking the Habit...

One of the examples he used that really hit home with me in my personal life is the habit involved with exercise and a good diet. I had not been exercising like I should and I had been feeling tired on days that I had not done anything, so after reading this book I began to go to the gym every morning with the orientation team, thinking that by going with a group, I would be more motivated to go. We began going around 10 every morning. At first, I thought that by going to the gym that early I would be exhausted by the end of the day, but I found that after working out I had more energy than before I exercised. In the book, Duhigg also explains how one changed habit can trigger several other positive changes, and I soon realized that when I went to the store to buy food for the week, I reached for granola bars instead of cookies, water instead of soda, and apples instead of chips. While it takes more than a couple of weeks to completely change a habit, I have noticed that the combination of these positive habits (exercising and eating better) makes me feel more energized for the day. Thinking about this from the perspective of the book, my cue for this habit is waking up and putting on my gym clothes. The routine is going with my fellow orientation leaders to work out together, and the reward is feeling more energized for the day. This book has made me aware of all of my habits, both good and bad. The Power of Habit has not only made me look at my diet and exercise habits, but it has also made me aware of other habits that I have acquired in my life. By reading this book, I feel I now have a chance to realize that habits are very important in shaping my life here at college and my life outside of school.

In the book the author also attributed a lot of success stories to realizing a bad habit and changing it slightly to their benefit. As a freshman in college it is important to realize that habits are vital. Habits shape what you will do with your time here at Sam Houston State University. Although your freshman year may seem too far away to make a difference, it is, in fact, right around the corner. What you do with your first two semesters in college could set you up for some amazing opportunities; opportunities for you to learn, serve and maybe have a little fun too! By shaping your habits to meet our university’s motto, “The measure of a Life is its Service,” you could not only make an impact on your own habits but possibly the habits of others.


The Power of Advertising

Chris Bertaut shares his thoughts on the book's corporate theme and how our habits both shape and are shaped by the things we buy. This theme ties into this year's Freshman Essay Contest, for which freshmen will analyze a campaign in terms of how it targets consumers or has the potential to change habits. The essay, art and poetry contests are sponsored by the First Year Experience Office in conjunction with the book this year, and winners of each contest will be awarded scholarships. Details for each contest can be found here and a video on the contests can be found here.

The Power of Habit also provides readers with a new perspective on how we shape and acquire habits in both our personal and consumer-based lives. After reading this book, I have become a lot more conscious of my personal shopping habits. By doing so, the way I act and think while buying anything from clothing to groceries has changed significantly.

Bertaut and Moultrie reading
Bertaut and fellow orientation leader Jasmine Moultrie make a "habit" of reading.

As a college student on a shoestring budget, getting the most “bang for your buck” is something that I absolutely have to do. Without us realizing it, grocery stores are monitoring our shopping habits and placing us into categories without our knowledge. For example, the typical college student is likely to stock up on chips, sodas, and meals that are easy to prepare. Stores use this information to tailor their displays and sales to make people want to spend more money. In a college town like Huntsville, grocery stores are more likely to sell snack items in large displays and advertise them heavily. Have you ever wondered why the student mailboxes both on and off campus are constantly filled with coupons for fast food places and “buy one, get one” coupons for Kroger and Walmart? Our subconscious shopping habits as college students have allowed companies to basically tell us what we want to buy.

After reading about how grocery stores typically arrange foods in a manner that encourages shoppers to purchase large amounts of snack foods to balance out their produce purchases, I’ve completely changed how I shop. Instead of roaming up and down the aisles and not really following my list, I now walk into the grocery store with a plan of attack. I purchase my “not so healthy” items first, followed by meats and starches, and then proceed to buy my fruits and vegetables at the very end. By doing so, I am not only avoiding the urge to buy large amounts of food that I really don’t need, but also helping to create a new consumer profile for these stores. Becoming aware of my shopping habits and how they are monitored has helped me improve my continuously stressful life as a college student. Being conscious of my food purchases has allowed me to eat regular, healthy meals, which has helped me be more energized and inclined to succeed in work, school, and at the gym.

As both an orientation leader and a college student, I highly recommend that all incoming students read The Power of Habit. The combination of useful statistics and attention-grabbing stories will definitely help ease the transition from high school to college for all new students. I know that becoming more aware of my habits has helped me become a more productive and informed person in so many ways. I can’t wait to see how it helps out our incoming students. Eat 'em up, Kats!


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