Sample Argumentative Essay Paper on The Power of Habit

Habits can be described as part of the human consciousness which creates recurrence in thought and actions. Essentially, when a person undertakes an activity or goes through an experience its memory is held temporarily by the brain. This is obviously a good thing because it enhances the ability to learn complex tasks such as playing the guitar or driving. However, the downside to this is the fact that we would rather not remember the bad things that happen, but the conscience does not have the ability to distinguish between these bad things and the good things. in this regard, the discussion of habit must first acknowledge the fact that there is an advantage and disadvantage. However, this essay will attempt to use the discussion of habit to examine the potential of the human mind to change habits. In this regard, the human brain is seen as a powerful tool that can be manipulated through routines and exercises so as to create desirable outcomes and eliminate undesirable ones. The book The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg offers significant insight into this topic.

The process of change is a recurring discussion in many of the modern day attempts to understand human behavior as a result of acquire habits. People generally want to learn how they can change their habits because often they create harm and hurt the people around them. However, not many discussions attempt to explain what habit really is, and how it is created. In this context, it is significantly difficult to change that which is unknown. In The Power of Change, Duhigg presents findings of past research which have made massive breakthroughs in understanding how the human brain works. In one such experiment, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology performed tests on a human subject, Eugene, with the objective of understanding how he had lost his memory, and how it could be rebuild. In this experiment, the scientists made the discovery that the human brain called the basal ganglia was responsible for keeping memories of routines (Singer 23). Over time, the routines subjected to the subject were seen to become habits. With this part of the brain being healthy and intact in Eugene’s brain, the scientists soon learned that he could learn new behaviors. Based on this observation, it can be deduced that the human brain, particularly the basal ganglia, performs the specific task of creating habits out of routines. According to Duhigg, as a person becomes familiar with a routine then the actions and responses are what become habits (20). Based on this argument, it is imperative to go further and examine the ways that the human brain can be manipulated through habits.

The habit loop is the process through which the human routines and responses build habit. Essentially, people perceive habits as something they do without really planning to do them. An example of such as habit is alcoholism and smoking. The user of these substances subconsciously understands the dangers but they still find themselves doing it. What happens for these undesirable habits to form is that the human brain identifies a routine where it is stimulated by “cues” and “rewards”. According to Duhigg, the cue is basically the guiding principle that leads the human brain to remember a routine (19). An example of a cue is that desire by a smoke to smoke, or an alcoholic to enter a bar. These subconscious reactions are elements of a routine created over time. On the other hand, the reward is the final outcome of the response. For an alcoholic, rewards could be anything from partying to simply being drunk (Singer 36). Over time, the individual develops a connection between the cue, routine, and the reward. Seeing how habits form, it is important to note that the routines are initially a time thing, but they become habits after they are repeated and imprinted in the brain in this cue-routine-reward loop. Therefore, it is not hard to see why people have difficulty quitting drinking whey they still have the same drinking buddies they have had for a long time.

Indeed, to break a habit it is inevitable to begin by eliminating the cue and changing the perceptiveness about being a reward. Still, it becomes difficult to change the perceptiveness of the reward, especially when the factors of addiction kick in. Therefore, the next thing to understand in the discussion of habits and how to change them is a look at the achievements of scientists in this psychological field of study. In this context, it can be seen that over the past decades scientists have understood habits better than before (Singer 61). Having learnt to break a habit in these parts and processes, people have finally learnt the potential ways to change habits such as excessive feeding, lack of physical exercise, and living healthily. The common thing about these habits is that they have desirable outcomes. In this regard, people will exercise more because they learn to maintain a memory of the reward, which could be a longer life or a higher self-appeal. In these cases, the person learns the routine of exercising or eating unprocessed foods, and with time they find reward in the form of reduced weight and increased health. Still, it must be noted that the effect is opposite for breaking bad habits. In the latter case, the challenge arises because the current situation is imprinted in the brain as the reward. A smoker feels that feeling the relief after smoking is the reward, and it can be difficult to program the brain to believe that quitting smoking is the real reward. Given these varying situation it is apparent that habits cannot be looked at from the perspective of routines. People can keep a routine of exercising but the same becomes harder for breaking bad habits.

Another aspect that comes into the discussion of habits is the power of the human will. Although Duhigg goes into great detail to describe the nature of habits and the process for creating them, the discussion of breaking them simply narrows to the will of the individual. According to Duhigg;

“Once you understand that habits can change,” he concludes, “you have the freedom — and the responsibility — to remake them. Once you understand that habits can be rebuilt, the power becomes easier to grasp, and the only option left is to get to work. (271)”

In the previous discussion habit was seen as a process of the brain’s interaction and manipulation of the surroundings. In this regard, the memories are not seen simply as something the brain chooses to keep but rather something it is stimulated to do. Therefore, the statement that habits can be rebuilt supports the idea that really the will and determination of the human can alter habits. Still, acknowledging the existence of these habits has to be the first step in making the desired changes (Duhigg 54). People who do not admit that they have bad habits often dismiss the problem as something they can control. In this case, an alcoholic might say that they drink when they want but fail to realize that the habit is constantly being kept by the brain, making harder and harder to alter. In the same manner, a person wanting to cut weight might think that the do not need a workout schedule. However, understanding about habits shows that submitting to the control of habits is a first step in identifying the cues and changing the perceptiveness of rewards. Habits are seen to be self-controlled processes; to maintain the habit you must maintain the routine which creates the desired outcome. Still, behavioral scientists are researching further on aspects such as withdrawal whereby they want to understand the process of altering habits and making new ones part of the routines.

Group behavior and company performance can also be influenced in the same way that individuals can change their habits by understanding them. The process of change in these group settings involves a more complex process of establishing cues, routines, and rewards (Duhigg 34). Companies have achieved great success in the past by understanding the habits of their customers and employees. Indeed, the study of habit has numerous potentials and implications that could ultimately change the way people think. Continued research should identify the ways that habits can be broken or created with the use of technologies. The understanding of habits and how they are formed will influence these researches and suggest new ways to restore memory or even distinguish between desirable and undesirable habits.




Works cited

Duhigg, Charles. The power of habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. Vol. 34. No.                10. Random House, 2012.

Singer, J. “Habits of Practice, Habits of Thought.” Journalism (2018).