Synopsis of The Power of Habit
The Power of Habit was written by Charles Duhigg to explain the mechanics of habits and how to harness them in your life. Duhigg highlights how habits permeate every aspect of your life. From your morning routine of brushing your teeth, to how you make financial decisions, known and unknown habits guide many aspects of your day.
It is vital for you to learn how to recognize habits in your life, work, and society so that you can leverage that understanding to improve your life circumstances. Charles Duhigg does a great job of breaking down the three essential parts of a habit: Cue, Routine, and Reward.
By analyzing habits by their parts, you will be better able to recognize the habits in your life. The Power of Habit also guides you into understanding how to change your habits for the better.
Key Takeaways from The Power of Habit Book
I learned three key takeaways from The Power of Habit.
- The Habit Loop – Components of a Habit
- Keystone Habits – Some habits can influence other habits
- The Golden Rule of Habit Change – How to modify and change your habits to create a better life.
I will outline each of these critical lessons individually below.
The Habit Loop – A Mental Model to understand the components of a habit
The Habit Loop is a means of organizing your understanding of how habits work. Every habit has four elements:
Every habit begins with a Cue. This Cue can be an action, time of day, a feeling, or external stimulation. When a cue occurs, you enter the habit loop.
After the cue, you begin the routine of the habit. This routine can be short or long but is typically repeated in the same way each time. While the routine is ongoing, your brain is not actively making new decisions. Instead, you’re following a pre-built action sequence in your head that has been built up over time.
At the end of any habit, you receive your reward. Rewards vary, but they can be a pure feeling of accomplishment or pleasure or an actual physical external reward such as eating a favorite dessert.
Cravings are not a direct part of the habit sequence. Instead, you experience a craving when you anticipate a reward before actually completing the habit’s routine. This craving causes you to want to act out the routine so that you can receive the reward. Cravings can be powerful and a sign that a habit has become thoroughly ingrained.
Keystone Habits – Some habits have the ability to influence and change other habits
Keystone Habits are a useful construct to understand because they are more powerful than your typical habit. Adopting a keystone habit is one way to accelerate positive change in your life.
A few key examples of keystone habits are:
- Exercising on a daily or regular basis
- Tracking calories as part of an improved diet
- Maintaining a monthly budget to track your spending
- Updating a monthly net worth statement to understand changes in your financial situation
Each of these keystone habits has the power to influence other areas of your life. When you exercise regularly, you will gain direct health benefits from this action. However, daily exercise also creates a ripple effect in your life.
Someone who exercises regularly will naturally choose to begin eating healthier foods to support their new exercise habit. They are also likely to wake up earlier or reduce sedentary activities like watching TV on the couch because their new fitness habit demands time. Each of these incremental changes also produces positive health benefits. Consequently, a single change to begin regularly exercising delivers both direct and indirect health benefits as you start to make numerous new healthy choices.
The same benefits can be seen from tracking calories to improving your diet, tracking your budget will improve spending, and tracking your net worth will improve your financial situation. All of these keystone habits will have an outsized effect on someone’s overall lifestyle because they create new cues for additional habits of the healthy and wealthy.
The Golden Rule of Habit Change – How to modify and change your habits to create a better life
You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.” – Charles Duhigg (pg.63)
A key lesson is to understand that bad habits never really go away. If you have bad habits, your best bet for improving your lifestyle is to find new and better habits to replace them.
- Replace a smoking habit with taking a walk around the office building as your break
- Replace sugary sodas with sparkling water or a fruit snack
These habit changes are not easy. Fortunately, Charles Duhigg offers us a framework for effecting habit changes.
- Use the same Cue
- Provide the Same Reward
- Change the Routine
As long as you understand the cue that begins your habit and the reward that you are seeking, you will be able to make changes in your habits. I have used this exact formula to start changing some of my unhealthy habits into healthy habits.
Example of Habit Change in my own Life:
My previous habit was to drink a Coca-Cola at lunch every day. In an attempt to cut down on my sugar intake, I wanted to change this habit to something less harmful.
Past Habit Loop:
- Cue: Lunch Time
- Routine: Drink a Coca-Cola
- Reward: Something other than water to drink at lunch
New Habit Loop:
- Cue: Lunch Time
- Routine: Drink a LaCroix Sparkling Water
- Reward: Something other than water to drink at lunch
As you can see, I focused on changing only my routine. I discovered that every time lunch came around, I had a craving for something to drink that wasn’t water. That’s why I would consistently drink Cokes every day. I thought I was craving a Coca-Cola, but through experimentation, I learned that wasn’t the case.
Now, I have a much better habit. Sparkling flavored water provides the reward I crave without the added sugar. It’s a win-win.
The Power of Habit Book Review
What Charles Duhigg does well:
- The Power of Habit is exceptionally well written. Duhigg uses multiple real-life examples in each of his chapters. This communication through metaphor and example allows the reader to gain a clear understanding of how habits work and how they can be applied to your daily life.
- Duhigg leads with the essential information first. The key lessons that I outlined above constitute the first three chapters of the book. Learning how habits work, which ones to focus on, and the key to changing them for the better is entirely helpful information. The Power of Habit is worth buying* for these chapters alone.
What Charles Duhigg could improve on:
- The second and third sections of the book focus habits in organizations and society as a whole. While these sections are interesting and develop on the complexity and power of habits, they are less applicable to someone’s daily life. If you’re purchasing this book for self-improvement purposes, you will gain the most benefit from the beginning of the book and the appendix.
Rating of The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
I give the Power of Habit book five stars.
For those who don’t know my rating system, it’s somewhat unique. I developed my rating system in-house. My rating system is specifically tailored to those interested in investing and personal finance. A 5-star rating means the book is a “Must Buy Book for anyone interested in the broad subject.”
I consider The Power of Habit book to be in the category of Self-Improvement. Although this book does not directly discuss investing, it is broadly applicable to everyone. Habits, especially financial keystone habits, have the power to influence and improve the financial outcomes in your life drastically. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to become a better investor or to build wealth through better financial habits.
Charles Duhigg eloquently demonstrates how habits work and how they can be changed. This knowledge is immensely valuable, and I encourage you to take the time to read this book. I am confident that learning to understand and master your habits has the power to transform your life dramatically.
Learn more about my book review rating system.
One Sentence Summary
You can harness the power of habits to make positive changes in your life that would otherwise seem impossible.
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