The Power of Habit: Why We do What We do in Business and Life

I’ve found that it’s pretty hard to build a good habit, like doing 50 pushups a day and eating broccoli. Once temptation comes calling, it’s easy to slip back into bad habits, like stuffing my mouth with hazelnut chocolate — a delicious vice that I struggle with.

The fascinating part is that the mechanism for habit building is the same, whether good or bad. I never really understood this until I read this book, and it helped de-mystify a lot about my own behavior. The Power of Habit and the science behind the book has been around for a while, but it’s definitely worth revisiting every now and then.

For anybody looking for a practical guide to break bad habits, and build new ones — this is it.

Big ideas from the book:

The Habit Loop:

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: THE HABIT LOOP Over time, this loop—cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward—becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges. Eventually, whether in a chilly MIT laboratory or your driveway, a habit is born.

Keystone Habits

O’Neill believed that some habits have the power to start a chain reaction, changing other habits as they move through an organization. Some habits, in other words, matter more than others in remaking businesses and lives. These are “keystone habits,” and they can influence how people work, eat, play, live, spend, and communicate. Keystone habits start a process that, over time, transforms everything

Small Wins 

Making your bed every morning is correlated with better productivity, a greater sense of well-being, and stronger skills at sticking with a budget. It’s not that a family meal or a tidy bed causes better grades or less frivolous spending. But somehow those initial shifts start chain reactions that help other good habits take hold.

The limits of Willpower 

“If you want to do something that requires willpower—like going for a run after work—you have to conserve your willpower muscle during the day,” Muraven told me. “If you use it up too early on tedious tasks like writing emails or filling out complicated and boring expense forms, all the strength will be gone by the time you get home.

Another quote from the book:

“Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.”


Tedx talk on habit by Duhigg:

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