The Power of Habit

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg is my current reading.  I believe that the author helps in the explanation of actions observed (as cues) and the changing of habits (as responses) to further explore some of Boyd’s thoughts on ‘Implicit guidance and control’ as a part of his OODA (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) theory.  Duhigg describes habits as autonomic (my word, not his) processes that are developed in response to certain specific stimuli or “cues.”  The idea is that if we can assign a different response to the cues, then we can change the habits (routines) that are built from the responses.  The responses are driven by cravings or desires that become the norm and product (reward) of responses to the cues.

As he explains through various case studies of how this works, it became apparent to me that this may have some link to Boyd.  See my post here about Boyd: Boyd’s Theory Applied to BJJ.  Being a big fan of Boyd and his theories that are applied to many things, such as business, and not just warfare, I’ve decided to delve a little deeper into this concept of habit change through cues and rewards.  So, the question becomes how to apply this technique to my practice of the martial arts in general and jiu jitsu specifically.  Gracie or Brazilian jiu jitsu is already filled with training methods that are meant to build up implicit guidance/controls.  My curiosity is mainly in how to generate a feeling of reward for a particular and correct response (autonomic self-movement) to a cue (opponent movement or change in applied pressure).

Depiction of habit loopHow do I generate a reward for a correct response to my opponents movement?  Perhaps it is just as easy as realizing the success from the application of the proper technique with the proper timing in response to his movement.  Or, is there something more that could be used as a reward?  How could one add to their ‘repertoire’ as Boyd describes it through the observation of cues that generate responses so similar that they become the autonomic reflex or muscle memory manifested as proper technique and timing for a given scenario in rolling/sparring.  There may be no additional reward that can be realized immediately in the heat of the session.  Maybe there can be a cognitive link drawn from the success of the overall session to a post-training reward (like a smoothie suggested by Duhigg.)  Then again, I could just be thinking about this too much….

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