The Power of Habit Summary: Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit Summary

The Power of Habit Summary provides a free book summary, takeaways, review, quotes, author biography and other key points of Charles Duhigg’s famous book. Charles said it is possible to transform your life if you master your habits.

Do you ever wonder why some people have a better lifestyle? Or did you realize why some achieve professionally while others fail? Journalist Charles Duhigg credits such contrast to habits. He explains that successful people can change and control their habits. First, they need to understand the three steps of the habit circle. That is, cue, routine and reward. These three steps determine what people do without thinking. So, people should analyze how unwanted habits work in this loop by satisfying cravings. Then, they may control or change the habits which appear to control them. We recommend this educational yet fun book The Power of Habit to everyone who seeks self-improvement.

“Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.”

This Summary Will Help You Learn

  • How your habits influence your life,
  • The way in which habits operate, and
  • Ways to change bad habits.


  • Habits refer to actions people first do intentionally and continue doing subconsciously.
  • It’s possible to change the wrong habits by learning how habits work.
  • There are three steps of “habit loop.” A “cue” pushes people into a “routine” to achieve the aim of “reward.”
  • Knowing how your habits fit the stages of a habit loop can aid you to change them.
  • Correcting habits is tough. It’s because they meet the cravings which require satisfaction. But, it’s possible to learn how not to react to a habit’s cue.
  • Starbucks trains employees to stay calm during “inflection points.” This improves their willpower in instances which may weaken their self-discipline.
  • Changing core habits can lead to beginnings of good new behaviors. Or alter the old bad ones.
  • Big retail chains like Target sell by assessing consumers’ shopping habits.
  • Martin Luther King Jr., Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Paul O’Neill of Alcoa all shape change. They destroyed their old habits and built new ones.
  • The debate goes on about how responsible people are for their bad actions. And, also on how much they can blame their habits for this.

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The Power of Habit Summary

A Matter of Habit

Habit refers to an activity which people intentionally decide to do once and continue to do it subconsciously.  Consider the complex processes you naturally use to drive a car. Habits form because our brain is wired to find ways to save energy. Researchers of the science of habits have some interesting observations. They notice that patients with lost memories can still perform their habits. Eugene, a patient, suffered from a fatal attack of viral encephalitis. He was unable to draw a basic floor plan of his house. But, he was able to find the kitchen when he was hungry. He proved that a person who couldn’t recall anything else can still form habits. It’s because all of us depend on similar neurological steps every day.

“Automatic behaviors” rest in our brain’s basal ganglia. The basal ganglia convert deeds into habitual actions through the process of “chunking.” For example, taking your car keys is a set of behavior. This chunk instantly triggers other chunks that comprise driving.

The three Stages Habit Loop

The 3-step “habit-loop” also forms in the basal ganglia. In the 1st step, the brain looks for a “cue.” This cue will place the brain into auto-pilot. Then, it signals what it must tell the body to do. The 2nd step is the “routine,” which means the following habit. Then is the “reward.” It teaches the main whether the loop is worth remembering for future times. When the cue and reward come together, the mind forms a feeling of expectation. This results in craving and the growth of habit. Sadly, the mind can’t judge if the habit is good or bad. Hence, even hard-to-break wrong habits become rooted. But, it’s possible to change bad habits and form new good ones. You can do this if you understand and manage the cue-routine-reward circle. Pay attention to your rewards and cues. Also, change your routine to prevent any craving.

Pining for Pepsodent and Begging for Febreze

Claude Hopkins became rich marketing Pepsodent toothpaste. His advertising strategy spurred “new habits” among customers. Brushing teeth wasn’t a countrywide habit in America during the early 20th century. But, Hopkins knew that if he marketed a craving, he’d make Pepsodent vital in their lives. He formed a desire to remove “tooth film” to get “beautiful teeth.” This was the reward here. Plus, Pepsodent gave a minty-fresh feeling. Hopkins promoted this feeling and built a countrywide toothpaste habit.

Likewise, P&G honed the habit loop for selling Febreze. It was an odor removing air freshener. P&G marketers did a lot of trial and error. Then they learned that customers didn’t want to realize that their homes smelled terrible. Instead, they craved to reward themselves for cleaning through the nice-smelling air. The first ad campaign for Febreze failed. So, P&G’s next ad-series highlighted other things. Febreze was shown to add a final touch to a cleaned room. And then the sales grew considerably.

Researchers noticed that the mind starts seeking reward which a usual routine offers. Facing the proper cues sends mind into a subconscious desire. This craving triggers the habit loop. All of this results in the routine and reward. But, the process isn’t unavoidable. People can study their desires to know which one grows into a habit. Likewise, people can change their desires to better ends. Let’s suppose you like the endorphin rush of the workout. Then, your routine of running every morning can become a natural habit.

“The Golden Rule of Habit Change”

Changing the Routines

Tony Dungy, Florida football coach, understood the strength of habit. He managed the low-scoring Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While coaching them, he identified that his players need to change their habits. If they don’t overthink their game, they will win more often. Rather than changing his team’s cues, he altered their routines. This forms the core of changing a habit. Any behavior can be changed if the reward and cue stay the same. Dungy taught his team a smaller number of games. But, he steadily drilled them in using those plays when they got the right cues. This made the Bucs successful. Although, they still weren’t able to win major games in a pinch. Dungy was fired from Bucs in 2001. So, he joined the Indianapolis Colts. Using his same strategy, he built a united, winning team.

Working on Addicts

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) uses the same approach with its members. Addiction can have physiological elements too. But, AA focuses on the habit cycle. It strives to “change the routine” when members face cues for drinking. It identifies why a person wants to drink. Whether it’s to feel less nervous, forget or unwind or any other reason. Then, the next step is determining the causes of such feelings. AA’s answer is to substitute the drinking routine with a routine of the company. This includes speaking with other addicts about cravings, rather than going for a bottle. AA’s outlook toward alcoholism has expanded to other addictions too. For example, drugs, food, gambling, and cigarettes. AA teaches that people should study their desires closely. This will help them know what drives their cravings.

People wanting to change their habits should accept a belief which says they can change. To some, this involves a spiritual aspect. For example, AA includes God in its popular 12 steps. People who wish to change something must believe that things will be better. For addicts, this means being sure that they can face life without drinking. To the Bucs, it meant being sure that they’ll win under tough situations. Such belief is more helpful if it happens in groups.

“Your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits, and so if you have a bad one, it’s always lurking there, waiting for the right cues and rewards.”

Habits That Change Other Habits

Case of Alcoa

Paul O’Neil was the CEO of Aluminium Co. of America (Alcoa). When he took charge, he surprised everyone by focusing on occupational safety. His reason for doing this was that he knew workplace habits could drive change. He focused on a core habit. One which, if changed, can flow through the company and drive other changes.

Companies form habits which help them attain their goals. O’Neill’s stress on safety pushed Alcoa to reorganize its operations. This not only made the workplace safer but also leaner. Changes in safety processes impacted every area of its business. Costs fell, quality improved and productivity increased. Core habits may also influence a person’s life. For example, someone who workouts more is likely to drink and smoke less. He/she tends to eat healthier food and be more productive. Core habits lead to “small wins.”

Case of Starbucks

Starbucks tries to embed the idea of willpower in its employees. Studies show that this is the leading habit that determines personal success. Starbucks employees better their lives when they learn willpower of being cheerful always.  This willpower is suggestive of the popular “marshmallow experiment.” Under this, researchers told small kids that they had two options. First, they can get one marshmallow right away. Second, they can get two. But, they’d have to wait for 15 minutes with marshmallows in front of them. Kids who waited proved to be more successful all through their schooling. This was based on their “self-controlling” abilities at age 4. You can learn willpower just like you learn a musical instrument. But, once you master it, you should keep it in shape.

At Starbucks, employees learn willpower by paying attention to “inflection points.” These refer to instances which may weaken their self-discipline. Workers practice routines for addressing dissatisfied consumers. Such practice helps them to perform the routine habitually. Starbucks names this approach “the LATTE method.” It has five steps. Namely, listening, acknowledging, taking action, thanking and explaining. CEO Howard Schultz also implemented a policy of giving workers “a sense of agency.” This means the awareness that the firm respects their decisions and opinions.

“As we associate cues with certain rewards, a sub­con­scious craving emerges in our brains that starts the habit loop spinning.”

The Case of Rhode Island Hospital

Sound workplace habits may spring from crises. At Rhode Island Hospital, staff was misusing a core habit. This was shown through a mistake in the operating room (OR). To prevent disputes, nurses had labeled demanding doctors’ names with colors. For example, a doctor’s name was labeled in black. Nurses knew they should submit to that doctor’s demand without questioning. This resulted in crisis which finally prompted OR teams to build better habits. Now, teams fill a checklist before any procedure.

Workplace habits keep companies functioning. Without them, firms would divide into conflicting groups. Such habits enable agreements. Rhode Island Hospital’s OR checklist allows nurses and doctors to avoid conflicts.

Likewise, there was a fatal fire in London’s King’s Cross station in 1987. This prompted the authorities to teach the staff better habits. They formed a disaster plan to make sure future safety.

Case of Target

Firms can also predict and control the habits of their regular customers. For example, Target performed a study on customer data. The aim was to be able to predict when consumers were expecting babies. Their “Guest ID” data program gave some helpful insights. For instance, customers’ shopping patterns changed most when something big happened in their lives. Shopping habits of expecting mothers changed predictably. When this happened, Target would send them baby products’ coupons. But, such policies could’ve seemed intrusive. Hence, Target, mixed baby discounts with other products.

Habits in Societies

The bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1950s arose from social habits. Dressmaker Rosa Parks was very connected with her community. She had powerful ties with friends and family. And weak relationships with her church fellows and seamstress work. She was arrested for not giving up her bus seat to a white person. The black community protested intensely. Martin Luther King Jr. developed a “feeling of ownership” in her cause to rally other blacks. They boycotted and became part of other civil rights fights. Park’s weaker ties spread the revolt to other areas too. Ones which otherwise wouldn’t have become involved.

Likewise, Rick Warren, a young cleric built his Saddleback church in California. It was partly because of social habits. He wished to make church-visiting more social. Warren created tiny self-run communities which met outside of Sunday masses. The members read the Bible but were very social too. They talked about issues they faced regularly and supported one another. The weaker ties of the main churchgoers divided into mini-groups with stronger relationships. They built self-governing leaders, a concept of social habits.

“Cravings… drive habits. And figuring out how to spark a craving makes creating a new habit easier.”

Are People Responsible, or Are Their Habits to Blame?

Society struggles with the idea of habits. It asks how responsible people for their habitual actions are? Consider a gambler who feels depressed at home (cue). She then gambles her money (routine) to satisfy the craving for stress relief. Is she to blame for putting her desires before her family’s condition? Take another example of a man with the habit of sleepwalking. Is he guilty if in a “sleep terror” he chokes his wife? Studies tell that if the brain can’t negotiate intentionally, the answer is no. A jury freed a man who murdered his wife in his sleep. But, society believes that people have some responsibility for habits like gambling.

With belief and determination, you can change your habits. Try to study them to understand your cues, rewards, and routines.

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The Power of Habit Review

The book power of the habit is one of the good books, and it has a random bag house which is handed out at the power of the readers. It usually works about the nonfiction stories as well as about the laws which are little bit dry work for the readers. This book is not a book which can be understood by listening to the audio of the books. For explaining how habits are made in the human personality, and we can secure us from the bad habits this book covers the extensive spectrum. This book also describes how the information about the bad and good habits can be utilized for the markle4ting management economic movements.

We must keep the old reminder and bring the same incentives for breaking the bad habits and inserted a new routine. If the incentives style and indication would be the same, any behavior can be transformed in the human personality. Such as every day you get from the desk for the afternoon break and take some cookies with coffee if your reward would be you can place your habit with taking apple by sitting on your desk and working hard. The power of Habit, I like so much this quotation “To change a habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.”

I like the book, and seemingly the author has made such difficult concepts and terms so much easier. Originally I picked the book after reading so much about the habits style of the person as I wanted to explore the habits style of some other as well. Although the book was a good read, it was specific to the style of habits of the person, and these can be changed. Moreover, it explains how bad habits can be placed into good habits. This book is shattered into three main sections which are categorized as habits of individuals, habi9ts of successful organization and habits impact on society.

The Power of Habit Quotes

“Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.”

“Your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits, and so if you have a bad one, it’s always lurking there, waiting for the right cues and rewards.”

“As we associate cues with certain rewards, a sub­con­scious craving emerges in our brains that starts the habit loop spinning.”

“Cravings… drive habits. And figuring out how to spark a craving makes creating a new habit easier.”

“To change an old habit, you must address an old craving. You have to keep the same cues and rewards as before and feed the craving by inserting a new routine.”

“Asking patients to describe what triggers their habitual behavior is… awareness training, and, like AA’s insistence on forcing alcoholics to recognize their cues, it’s the first step in habit reversal training.”

“Some habits have the power to start a chain reaction, changing other habits as they move through an or­ga­ni­za­tion… Keystone habits start a process that, over time, transforms everything.”

“Cultures grow out of the keystone habits in every or­ga­ni­za­tion, whether leaders are aware of them or not.”

“Just as choosing the right keystone habits can create amazing change, the wrong ones can create disasters.”

“A movement starts because of the social habits of friendship and the strong ties between close ac­quain­tances.”

“It grows because of the habits of a community and the weak ties that hold neigh­bor­hoods and clans together.”

“It endures because a movement’s leaders give par­tic­i­pants new habits that create a fresh sense of identity and a feeling of ownership.”

“This is how willpower becomes a habit: by choosing a certain behavior ahead of time and then following that routine when an inflection point arrives.”

About the Author

Charles Duhigg is a journalist for The New York Times. His other works include Toxic Waters, Golden Opportunities, and The Reckoning.


Having read this The Power of Habit Summary, what do you think? Can it help you to achieve your target? Please feel free to share your thought with us. We are happy to further discuss with you.

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