Force of Habit: Unleash Your Power By Developing Great Habits

Force of Habit: Unleash Your Power By Developing Great Habits

by Tamsin Astor


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A Step-By-Step Guide to Organizing Your Life

Force of Habit details the ways you can develop great habits and unleash the power of your habits to break free from your cage and organize the life you want and need.

Master your habits, get your life back. Dr. Tamsin Astor blends her scientific background and awareness (PhD in cognitive neuroscience) with yoga, Ayurveda, meditation and coaching training to offer a unique approach to mastering your daily habits. Using tools from health and executive coaching, Tamsin provides a plan to help you navigate from a multi-tasking, low energy, time-deprived existence to one of abundance, nourishment and fun!

Regain your power, reduce stress. Feeling overwhelmed, stressed and that there isn't enough time or energy to get everything done? Follow the steps in Force of Habit to create a life of joy and freedom by making connections in your daily habits, thereby reducing your decisions. Tamsin lays out a simple time management process to master your key habits in your two key relationships: with yourself and others.

Readers will learn:

  • The “Shoulds” and why they don't serve you
  • Stress – what it's secretly doing to you and why we need a little "good" stress
  • Why there isn't one definition of "healthy"
  • A new way of thinking about everyday habits

The art of time management. And what about your relationships with others–are you cultivating enablers or supporters? This book gives you a step-by-step guide to organizing your life. How? By creating boundaries and daily rituals so you have the time for what you need and want to do. By establishing healthy habits, you can unleash your true power by freeing up your time from the thousands of micro-decisions you make daily.

If you liked books such as The One Thing, Eat That Frog, Declutter Your Mind, The Productivity Project, Habit Stacking, or Cal Newport books such as Deep Work, Digital Minimalism, or So Good They Can't Ignore You, you're going to love Force of Habit.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633537866
Publisher: Mango Media
Publication date: 08/15/2018
Pages: 200
Sales rank: 1,180,319
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Tamsin Astor , PhD helps busy professionals organize themselves so they have time for what they need and want, and time for fun. She is your Chief Habit Scientist, wrangling your habits around sleep, exercise and& eating through a lens of mindfulness and relationship management. We make tens of thousands of decisions every day, so if we can create connections between the habits that serve us well, thus reducing the number of choices we make, we free up lots of time.

Tamsin utilizes a broad array of both Eastern and Western skills from her extensive training (PhD, Advanced Registered Yoga Teacher - RYT500, Certified Living Ayurveda, Certified Executive Coach and Certified Yoga Health Coach) and background (Neuroscience, Psychology & Education research, teaching, 10+ years meditation-practioner, parenting a child with cancer, a child with ADHD, coaching) to guide clients through change related to their careers, relationships, physical and emotional health.

Read an Excerpt




Perhaps you're just not feeling quite right. Like life is living you instead of you living it. You might feel like you're not fully present in all the roles you might be juggling — worker, partner, friend, parent, child, individual. You've got this sense of feeling overwhelmed and find it hard to both turn off at the end of the day and switch with ease between these roles. You see photos on Facebook or Instagram and wonder how people seem to have their shit together enough to have a family meal, to make time for yoga, to go on a date. You just KNOW that there's more to life. You sense that things could feel more easeful, more productive, more joyful.

If that's the case, then this book is for you.

Maybe you're reading this book because, like me, you've had a facedownin-the-arena moment, as author Brené Brown calls it My facedown-in-thearena moment started when my son was diagnosed with cancer. I put myself out there as a parent, I did everything I was supposed to do while I was pregnant — ate healthy food, exercised, slept well — and then I did everything I was supposed to do when he was a baby and young child. I breastfed him for twenty-one months, wore him in a sling on my body so he developed a healthy attachment to me, made organic food, laid him on his back to sleep, put up baby gates and strapped him into his five-point car harness, took him to baby yoga classes and music classes, avoided choking hazards, took him to swim lessons, rocked him, played with him, taught him how to engage with his big brother. You name it, I did it.

And then ...

I fell facedown and lost control. I took time to look at the view from facedown. The world looks different when you're lying in the hospital with a two-year-old boy who has a nasogastric tube coming out of his nose and taped to his cheek, which he keeps tugging out and you and the doctors have to restrain him to re-insert it. The view is not pretty when your two-year-old has an epidural inserted in his spine, a wound halfway across his abdomen with a drainage line, and he keeps pulling out the IV lines in his arms and ankles. The view from facedown shifted and taught me more as his hair fell out and he'd wake with mouthfuls of his own hair saying, "Mama, there are spiders in my mouth." It shifted when he screamed with pain as he urinated the burning chemotherapy drugs out of his system, and when I held him as he writhed in pain when his intestines herniated two months after the initial cancer surgery.

When you lose control and you're facedown, there are some choices to be made. You can wallow and stay there, letting the shitty things that happen define your entire life. Or, you could wallow for a bit and then get up, walk away, and never look back or reflect, just box the experience into the past. Or, you could wallow for a moment, reflect on the view, agree to make some changes, and then get up.

We all know people who have fallen into those categories. Consider that divorcée who lives on your block who is still bitching and moaning about her ex-husband twenty-five years later (what you might call living through the rearview mirror). Then there are those people who, when they have a terrible or life-changing experience, box that experience into the past. They don't learn from it or reflect on how they could do things differently, and instead find themselves repeating the mistakes of the past, continuously living the same patterns.

Have you ever read Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning? This book is one of the most powerful works to contemplate the horrors of the World War II prison camps, to reflect on that awful experience, and then to contemplate how to use that knowledge for creating a meaningful life.

Frankl, who had trained in neurology and psychiatry with a focus on depression and suicide, wrote his book after surviving Auschwitz. In the book, he details a terribly moving passage in which he and another prisoner talk about their wives and how they hope that their experiences are not as awful as their own while they are walking to work, helping each other, and being beaten by the Auschwitz guards:

"The truth — that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire ... In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way — an honorable way — in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment."

Frankl's wife died, as did his parents and brother. But he directed his life's work to research and helping people understand the vital importance of finding meaning in every kind of existence — even the most appalling ones — and, therefore, to find reasons to continue living.

My experience, was of course, nowhere near the horror of Frankl's and I am not in any way trying to draw parallels. But my sad and difficult experiences led me to this realization: I wanted to understand so I could move forward with knowledge, which is how I unleash my power.

I started studying so I could understand different perspectives on life, death, mind, body, spirit, and soul. I meditated, took classes, talked to people, and read books. I started to find ways to manage my mind, and yoga helped my body start to feel more connected to itself and with my mind, but I still struggled to figure out why I didn't feel completely healthy. I needed to figure out what was going on.

As I slowly figured out the changes I needed to make and started instituting them in my life, I would fall off the wagon and fail to follow through with the new habits that I had been cultivating and that I knew would make my life better. When I started studying Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga that basically means the science (veda) of life (ayus), I discovered a great word in Sanskrit.

Prajnaparadha, pronounced "prudge-nah-purr-ahd-ha," means a crime against wisdom. I would commit this by staying up way too late, drinking way too much coffee late in the day, or trying to have a discussion with my then-husband about how our marriage was failing at 9:00 p.m. and then not sleeping well. Duh. The more I studied positive habits, and whether they were sticking for me or my clients, the more I realized that I had to get my head around the concept of motivation.

One of the first constructs I considered was that perhaps I had struggled because I was stuck in reliving my guilt from past "incorrect actions." This was definitely prevalent when my son was diagnosed with cancer — I found my meditation practice had a profound effect on my feelings about myself, my actions, and whether I had inadvertently caused the cancer by, I don't know, standing too close to the microwave when I was pregnant. Perhaps I needed to become a hedonist (someone who thinks the pursuit of pleasure is the most important thing in life) and start living purely for this moment and this moment alone! Or maybe a nihilist (someone who believes life is meaningless, so it doesn't matter what you do or how you act)? Hmm.

Philip Zimbardo, leader of the famous Stanford Prison Experiment — a study in which groups of undergraduate students were randomly assigned roles as prison guards or prisoners in an examination of perceived power versus innate traits — has done some interesting research on how we make decisions, which relates to this concept of motivation. Specifically, in a 2009 TED Talk, he explores whether we are overly focusing on the future, the past, or the present when we decide what to do or not to do.

If we are past-oriented, we are using our memories of similar decisions (either positive or negative); if we are present-oriented, we are focused on the action in front of us (either hedonistic or nihilistic); and if we are future-oriented, we are considering the costs and benefits for the future (either goal-oriented or transcendental, the idea that life begins after death). Zimbardo's research suggests that we want this winning combination: past-positive, to give us roots; present-hedonistic, to give us pleasure and energy to explore; and future-goal-oriented, to give us the wings to soar!


Research shows that we are often more motivated by the stick (pain) than the carrot (pleasure). For example, the pain of losing $100 is much stronger and more emotionally valent than the pleasure of winning $100. As a young kid, I tended to be more motivated by the stick than the carrot. I was fearful of breaking the rules because I did not want to deal with the consequences. I turned in my homework because the pain of doing it was less than the pain of my teacher asking me why I hadn't done it, in front of the class.

I have found this to be a useful framework for making the initial shift in the direction of a new habit. For example, use it to set a goal for yourself, such as "I will make it to the gym X times this month," or "I will weigh X pounds by this date." Then, instead of a reward for making your goal happen, set up something that you don't want to happen (the stick). For example, give $100 to a charity which does exactly the opposite of what you value — that is, they have an ethical framework that is anathema to your way of engaging in the world. Write the check, post-date it and give it to a friend. Then get to making your goal happen. The thought of a negative consequence is often more motivating than rewarding yourself with a massage or a new pair of sunglasses (or whatever your positive reward might look like).


This next concept feeds into why you're making this shift, and ties back into why you're reading this book in the first place.

This kind of motivation will invariably shift as your life changes, but the technique for getting at your big "why" is to look at the bigger context of your life and really get clarity around your vision for it. Where do you want to live, what do you want to do, and so on? For example, I had a client who wanted to lose weight, sleep better, and have more energy so that she could spend the next twenty-five years of her life being fit and engaged as a grandmother. Her big "why" was about how sorting out her habits would create the kind of life that she wanted.

I do the work I do because I want to make changes in people's lives. Why do I do it this way (as a coach, author, and speaker), rather than as a therapist, doctor, or variety of other care-based professions that I am drawn to? Because my bigger "why" is freedom about where and when I work. I love to collect my kids from school, walk my dog during the day, and travel both with my kids and on my own. Doing this kind of work gives me the freedom not to be tied to a physical location or conventional nine-to-five hours.

A more formal framework for this can be provided by the yogic framework known as the purushartas — literally, the desires of the soul. Specifically, the purushartas can be considered the four aims of life. The first aim is Dharma: your life's purpose. The second is Artha: your worth and your desire for income and security. The third is Kama: desires, pleasures, and psychological needs (like Kama Sutra!). The fourth is Moksha: liberation, freedom, and spiritual enlightenment. As my friend, colleague, and fellow YogaAyurveda teacher Marc Holzman notes, it's much easier to get up at 5:00 a.m. and meditate if you're clear on your purushartas!


When you take refuge as a Buddhist, you commit to saying the Bodhisattva vow, which basically states that you wish to continue being reborn until everyone is enlightened. Essentially, it is a repeated reminder to continue practicing, acting, and dedicating your practices and work to others. There are many people in the world and throughout history, such as Mother Theresa or Nelson Mandela, whose motivation for changing and connecting with the world was driven by service to others. Acting for others is another major driving factor — motivation — which can prove very powerful.

My work around this as the basis for my actions was that I put the needs of my former husband and my children before my own. I was not putting on my oxygen mask first, as it were. This led me to a place of massive depletion, where I was not meeting my own needs and so I struggled. Now I balance the needs of others with my own. I am fully cognizant of the fact that I need to fill my own cup first, if I am going to show up and be able to act for others from my full capacity. As one of my coach friends phrased it, fill your own cup so it overflows for those in your life. My children, friends, lovers, family, and clients are the recipients of my overflowing cup, and not the ones who get priority to drink from my cup first!


I got very good at reacting to and fulfilling the needs of those around me while ignoring my own needs. A large part of my self-work has been to really understand needs. I wanted to understand what my needs were and whether I was reacting to them appropriately.

Maslow's theory is a developmental model of needs and its original form consists of a pyramid with five layers: Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem, and Self-Actualization (to Self-Transcendence), from bottom to top. This theory has been argued about and reconsidered and had other layers added to it. It is clear that we can develop and redefine more than one layer at a time; we are not confined to only one level and a progression from lower to higher levels. Maslow's theory has also been criticized for being ethnocentric (i.e., taking the view of only one ethnic group), which is completely valid, especially when you consider cultures and ethnic groups who place different values on different needs.

The reason I present Maslow's theory here is to make the point that, when you are making changes to habits in your life, which essentially requires you to shift and evolve who you are and how you show up in the world, it can be helpful to consider whether you are putting more or less attention on one of these needs. For me, as a super-nerd, I made the mistake of starting with the self-actualization and self-transcendence needs. I spent a lot of time thinking about my experiences, my life, and how I was showing up and engaging as a mother, wife, friend, and employee, but I failed, initially, to face, embrace, and ultimately make the necessary changes in the other categories of needs. So, I present this theory as something to consider in terms of whether your attention and energy is focused too narrowly.

[??] Physiological needs are considered to be the most important and include air, food, water, and basic shelter. (After the basic physiological needs are met for the most part, the needs of safety become more predominant.)

[??] Safety needs are when people are striving to find personal security, financial security, health, and well-being. Safety needs are not being met if you are in a war zone, or amidst a natural disaster, or living with abuse or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After a person has these two basic sets of needs met, then the third level of needs, Love/Belonging, becomes more predominant.

[??] Love/Belonging needs are very powerful and, as evidenced by research in situations of abuse, can even override safety needs (e.g., Stockholm syndrome, children clinging to abusive parents). These are interpersonal and involve our feelings of belonging with friends, family, and lovers. We all know how we feel when we are surrounded by love and feel that deep sense of connection. I feel braver and more capable when I am in a loving relationship with someone, or in regular communication with friends and family who affirm my value.

[??] Esteem needs relate to the need to be respected. Are you valued and accepted by others, and are you valued and respected by yourself? According to Maslow, self-respect is a higher level of esteem than is respect from others. But we can all find ourselves mirrored in others and struggling with low self-esteem. Of course, more extreme manifestations of esteem occur with depression, but social media and the living of life out loud and in front of everyone for judgment can lead to inferiority complexes.

[??] Self-actualization needs refer to what a person's full expressed potential in life can be. Do you have a strong desire to accomplish everything that you can in life, and are you focused on it? Some people have a clear and strong focus on this need — the LeBron Jameses, Richard Bransons, and Oprah Winfreys of this world — who focus energy and attention on being the best and constantly doing the work to improve themselves. Maslow's view was that you couldn't meet self-actualization needs if the previous needs were not met, but look at Vincent van Gogh — he clearly struggled with love, belonging, and esteem, even though he was very expressed or self-actualized in terms of his art. People may seem successful, even if all their needs are not met. However, dig below the surface and you may discover that there's some deep, unfulfilled need under the veneer of success.


Excerpted from "Force Habit"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Tamsin Astor, PhD..
Excerpted by permission of Mango Media, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface 9

Introduction: The Shoulds and the Oughts: Why They Don't Serve You 11

What Do I Mean by the "Shoulds"? 13

Chapter 1 Motivation 16

Why Are You Reading This Book and Why Do You Care? 16

The Stick or the Carrot? 20

Your Big Why: The Purushartas 20

Acting for Others 21

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs 22

The Role of the Environment 24

Motivation: Self-Determination Theory 25

Grit 26

Why All the Theories? 26

How to Use This Book 27

Chapter 2 Stress 29

I Stress, Eustress, We Stress: We All Need Some Stress 29

Our Stress: The Stressed Nation 32

Evolution and Stress: Nature at Work 34

Epigenetics: Nurture at Work 34

How Do You Handle Stress? 35

A Better Model for Understanding and Handling Stress 37

Doshas: Organizing Energetic Principles 37

Summary 40

What Do You Need to Unleash Your Power? 40

Time Out 40

Chapter 3 Unleash Your Power: Develop Healthy Sleeping, Eating, and Exercise Habits 41

Healthy 41

Habit 42

Working on YOU Includes Caring for Self: Fill Your Cup 44

The Science of Habit-in Brief! 45

Habit Cultivation Is Tough as Shit! 48

Kaizen 49

Relationships 49

Things to Know Before You Start 50

Summary 50

What Do You Need to Unleash Your Power? 50

Time Out 51

Chapter 4 Sleep 52

We Are Seriously Sleep-Disturbed, My Darlings 52

Why Do We Need Nourishing Sleep? 54

How to Sleep Well 55

Food 56

Lights 56

Soothe Your Senses 57

To Nap or Not to Nap? 60

Summary 61

What Do You Need to Unleash Your Power? 61

The Main Message 62

Time Out 63

Chapter 5 Eating 65

Scarcity and Nourishment 65

How to Be Mindful About Food and Eating 66

Some of the Science Behind the Standard American Diet (SAD) 66

The Standard American Diet (SAD) Will Literally Make You Sad 69

Read Ingredients Labels! 70

What's Happened to Our Diet? 70

Say NO to Processed Food and Artificial Sweeteners 72

Food Is Not Rational 73

When to Eat and What? 76

To Snack or Not? 77

Summary 79

What Do You Need to Unleash Your Power? 79

The Main Message 80

Time Out 81

Chapter 6 Exercise 83

Why Exercise? 83

Again, Why Exercise? 84

Exercise Doesn't Have to Be a Massive Hollywood Production 85

Summary 88

The Main Message 89

Time Out 90

Chapter 7 Relationships with Yourself and Others 92

Meditation 94

Relationships: The Shifts that Occur as a Result of Your Habit Evolution 98

Your Evolutionary Journey and the Enabler 99

Your Evolutionary Journey and the Supporter 100

Conversational Intelligence 101

How to Improve Your Chances of Cultivating a Supporter 102

Avoiding Toxic People 102

Creating Boundaries 103

Mindset 104

Mindset: Fixed or Growth? 104

Learned Helplessness or Learned Optimism? 106

Gratitude 108

Dazzlement 109

Summary 111

What Do You Need to Unleash Your Power? 112

Time Out 112

Chapter 8 The End-or Maybe Just the Beginning! 113

Why Did I Write This Book? 113

This Is What This Book Says 114

How to Create Your Own Habit Circles 116

Create Your Own Habit Circle 117

Tamsin's Recipes 119

Journal Questions to Help You Dive Deeper 150

Acknowledgments 191

About the Author 192

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Tamsin really gets into the limiting beliefs behind our habits. Now I have a great resource to share with my patients!”

• Jessica Hutchins, MD

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