Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit

Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

the power of habit summary

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The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business is a book by Charles Duhigg, a New York Times reporter, published in February 2012 by Random House. It explores the science behind habit creation and reformation. The book has reached the best seller list for The New York Times,, and USA Today

Who is this book for?

  • Readers who are interested in persuasive and leadership oriented books.
  • People who need to use persuasion to generate sales or inspire change.
  • Anyone interested to learn how to use why to get desired results.

Meet the author

Charles Duhigg (born 1974) is a Pulitzer-prize winning American journalist and non-fiction author. He was a reporter for The New York Times and is the author of two books on habits and productivity, titled The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business and Smarter Faster Better.

The Power of Habit Summary

Most of us have habits that we aren’t even aware of. Identify your habits and then decide which ones you want to change or replace.

We all admit that we have some bad habits that we would rather be without and yet old ingrained habits can be frustratingly hard to kick. How many times have you made the New Year’s resolution to get on top of old habits and change the way you do things?

And again next New Year’s. And still the year after. The same old patterns.

We realize that there must be some way to take control over our weaknesses, but most of us need a helping hand to get started. That is why The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is relevant to all of us. The whole- structured chapters guide us through the maze of misinformation about our habits to learn the correct underlying theory behind the formation of those habits and how we can overcome them by adopting new behaviors.

It is essential to explore how your habits are structured for you to evaluate their hold over your behavior. In this chapter, the anatomy of a pattern is broken down into its three components: the cue, the routine and the reward (result).

When you can understand the cycle of a habit you are in a stronger position to take stock of your own and analyze which patterns you have are destructive and need modification and which ones prove useful.

To take control of these destructive habits, you need to identify what initiates or triggers the behavior. Duhigg discusses strategies for recognizing these cues and how to implement this knowledge to modify or even break habits you are not happy with.

We all want to combat unwanted old habits, and Duhigg guides us through the process of consciously recognizing the specific cues and rewards that must be disrupted or replaced.

You can create your own habits. Every habit is based on something we want. Replace that want with a different one and you can replace the habit as well.

This chapter explores the nature of the cues that trigger your habits and reveals that the primary signal for habits is craving. The author’s explanation of the insidious manner in which cravings influence your behavior is explained in depth and in clear, concise language that we can all take on board.

Armed with new knowledge, you can devise strategies to circumvent the grip a habit has on you if you can unravel the craving that initiates it. We learn how a specific desire anticipates the reward (the result of the habit behavior) and once you understand this feedback loop, you can choose to derail the cue-routine-reward cycle and get a head start on eliminating any habit you have wanted to kick. We all know that old habits can be stubbornly ingrained and prove difficult to avoid but once you can recognize the cravings and cues that drive your practice you are in a strong position to remove or derail those cues and circumvent that behavior.

On the other hand, for those of us who wish to encourage the formation of beneficial new habits, your new understanding of the habit cycle is a powerful tool to enable you to set up a suitable cue and the consequent reward, for example, taking up exercise classes or going for a regular run. You will learn how to create the desired reward and design the cues that initiate that activity response and reinforce it with repetition to establish a new habit.

Be honest with yourself about why you are doing what you do. You can’t change your habits if you don’t know exactly where they come from.

We need to firmly establish the real reason why our unwanted habits prove so difficult to quit. This chapter guides us to uncover the actual underlying stimuli responsible for why the patterns occur in the first place.

Without asking the more in-depth questions, you may incorrectly assume that apparent cues initiate specific behaviors. We are working hard, and we go to the fridge and over-indulge in something tasty.

But was it hunger that launched these actions? Was craving for food the cue that set off the effect? Was food the reward you wanted?

The author gives us strategies to assist in revealing the real cues that set off our craving for the reward. Ask yourself the questions.

Dig deep and be honest with yourself. He outlines proven methods to apply so that we may truly understand the nature of our habit so we can take control of it and eventually conquer it.

So, was it hunger that leads you to indulge in snacking? Or was it, in fact, a distraction from boredom? Or was it “comfort eating” as a response to some deep-seated anxiety issues?

The book provides a framework for analyzing the accurate underlying cues that initiate unwanted, ingrained

behaviors and by understanding the real cause and effect relationship we are in a stronger position to be able to interrupt, modify or eliminate the cycle. Duhigg reveals how habits can be modified without even needing to change the cues and the rewards because these can be deep-seated and ingrained, but instead by merely altering the routine actions that the signals trigger.

For example, if we suffer anxiety issues, for example, this cue may have been triggering excessive alcohol consumption or perhaps high-calorie food intake, if we replace the destructive activity with something else that alleviates the sensations of anxiety we get the same result – comfort or a feeling of wellbeing. Instead of that cream cake or a bottle of rum, we attend a prayer meeting or join a sporting club for companionship and enjoyment.

By employing this strategy, the result is the same, the alleviation of the feelings of loneliness or anxiety. The cue was the same.

Only the routine (the actions) stimulated by the signal has changed. And in this way, we can all learn to modify our behavior and turn a bad habit into a good pattern.

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“Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.” 

― Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

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