The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change by Charles Duhigg
Have you ever wondered how much of your life and your behavior is dominated by your habits?
It’s safe to say that many of the habits we learn are incredibly useful. Habits mean you can drive your car (once you’ve learned how) without much thought at all. The assocations we form can help keep us safe, for example – that touching a stove is dangerous because it’s hot.
On the other hand what about the habits that aren’t so useful? The food we eat (or don’t) the exercise we do (or don’t) and so on and so forth.
That’s where this insightful book enters the picture. How can we change the habits that we don’t like?
It turns out (as with most things) the first step is to uncover or recognise the habit. In other words – you have to want to change.
Get that part started and then read this book for some amazing stories and facts on how the brain works and how habits can be changed.
It all centres around this one theme: “habits can be changed, if we understand how they work.”
I read this book just out of pure self-interest, but as it turns out, it’s also incredibly relevant to marketers. The different marketing examples weaved throughout are brilliant; touching on AA (for alcholics), McDonalds and even the selling of toothpaste (creating the tingly feeling helped set up a habit).
“Every McDonald’s, for instance, looks the same—the company deliberately tries to standardize stores’ architecture and what employees say to customers, so everything is a consistent cue to trigger eating routines,” writes Charles.
Even the training of Michael Phelps into a champion through the use of habits is touched on.
Business wise, the book delves into ‘keystone habits’ and how businesses can use these to transform their practices and culture. For example focusing on safety as a key habit to trasnform (and then this leading to across the board changes).
6 quotes from the Power of Habit
(headings = mine, all quotes directly from the book)
1. Habits are everywhere
“One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.”
2. Habits = helpful
“Without habit loops, our brains would shut down, overwhelmed by the minutiae of daily life.”
3. It’s a three-step process
“This process within our brains is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.”
4. Sorry, you can’t delete a habit
“Habits never really disappear. They’re encoded into the structures of our brain, and that’s a huge advantage for us, because it would be awful if we had to relearn how to drive after every vacation.”
5. Instead of deleting you need to change it (or create a new one)
“Rather, to change a habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.”
6. Because the golden rule is…
“You Can’t Extinguish a Bad Habit, You Can Only Change It.”