On Habits, Conditioning, and Cellular Memory.

What distinguishes top performers from the rest? It’s not will power, but rather habitual behavior. Top performers rely on and strengthen their good habits in order to maximize their days. So how can we promote good habits and change the bad ones? As Charles Duhigg explains in The Power of Habit, 3 things are necessary in order to form a habit: a trigger, a behavior, and a reward. Getting rid of a bad habit is almost impossible. However, we can re-wire our brains and turn bad habits into good ones. How do we do that?? Well, according to Duhigg, if we give ourselves the same reward, and simply change the behavior necessary to get the reward, we can change the habit itself over time. To give a good example of habit formation, consider the following story as described by Charles Duhigg. In the 20th century, people did not have a habit of brushing their teeth, therefore toothpaste companies suffered and their sales plummeted. So a powerful marketing campaign was created based on habit formation. This marketing campaign included the trigger, the behavior, and the reward. The trigger: do you ever run your tongue over your teeth and feel some sort of coating or film over them? The behavior: this toothpaste will get rid of that coating/dirt on your teeth. The reward: when you experience the tingling feeling on your gums from the toothpaste, you’ll know your teeth are clean. Note: that tingling feeling has nothing to do with the cleanliness of our teeth. It’s actually an irritant in toothpaste designed to form a habit. The reason it works is because that tingling feeling is an instant reward that makes us think we cleaned our teeth properly.

Okay that’s cool, but what does cellular memory have to do with habits and conditioning?? Well, just like habits, the cells in our bodies need triggers in order to perform at optimal levels. Consider this: do you ever smell something and immediately your mood changes? Perhaps you start getting flashbacks to the good ol’ days when everything was awesome cause you were awesome and you didn’t have a care in the world? Yea, that’s your cellular memory. To get a better understanding of this, I turned to Deepak Chopra, a leading figure in alternative medicine and one of my favorite people at the moment. Dr. Chopra describes multiple experiments in which cellular memory gets triggered by a simple scent. For example, a group of rats is injected with an immune booster and at the same time exposed to the smell of camphor. The second group of rats is injected with something that destroys their immune system but also exposed to the smell of camphor. After some time, both groups are exposed to camphor. The first group gets a boost in their immune system just by smelling the camphor and the second group experiences a drop in their immune system while being exposed to the same scent. The difference? Yup, you guessed it, the interpretation of the scent based on their cellular memory. The point is simple: in order to maximize our mental and physical capabilities, we must observe our behavioral patterns and pin point the triggers which cause those patterns.


  1. Write down 3 of your good and 3 of your bad habits. Break them down in terms of triggers, behaviors, and rewards. Analyze how to replace the behaviors of your bad habits while keeping the same rewards.

  2. Condition yourself throughout the day to stick to a very repetitive routine.

  3. At the end of every task you accomplish throughout the day, give yourself a reward.

  4. Set up triggers to achieve and maintain a given physical and mental state. If you are having an amazing day, consciously expose yourself to a very unique scent in order to remember that physical and mental state - that sets up a trigger for your cellular memory. Use this trigger as an energy booster in the future.