If you’ve read anything about productivity, self improvement, or simply changing your life, you already know habits are a core part of all of that. In fact, adopting the right habits can drastically impact your personal and work life. This is exactly what The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is all about.
The Power of Habit Overview
As the name implies, Duhigg dives deep into how habits affect every part of our lives. From unconscious habits that may be sabotaging your success to ditching the obvious bad habits and everything in between, you’ll learn how habits impact you and how to change them to better control your life.
It’s an ideal guide for anyone looking to make small or large changes in their habits. At 400 pages, The Power of Habit is a powerful read with actionable insights and ample examples. If you’re on the fence, check out some of the key points you’ll learn.
1. The Cue, Routine, Reward Loop
As complex as habits seem, it’s just three steps of a single loop – cue, routine, and reward. The Power of Habit breaks down each part of this loop and why it matters.
The cue is what actually starts the habit. For instance, if you tend to procrastinate on a task, the cue might be: “I’m bored, so let me take a quick break.”
Next up is the routine. Now that you’re bored, what do you do? Maybe you watch TV, play with an app on your phone, shop online, or something else entirely. The entire behavior that occurs as a result of the cue is your routine.
Finally, there’s the reward. This is the part you look forward to. In the example, the reward would be not having to do the boring task right away while you instead enjoy doing something you like better.
The reward is helping reinforce the cue and routine. After all, if you immediately like the reward, even if you regret it later, you’re more likely to do it again. This is what makes habits so incredibly difficult to break.
2. The Importance of Routine
Charles Duhigg says the golden rule for changing any habit is to only focus on one part of the loop – the routine. Your cue remains the same. You’re not going to magically stop feeling bored if a task is boring. However, the routine you take when you feel boredom can change.
For instance, you may set a timer to limit your procrastination while giving your mind a helpful break, especially if you’ve been working for a while. Or, you may delay your boredom-busting activity for a set amount of time in order to receive your reward a short time later. You still get rewarded, but now you feel better about your reward both instantly and later on.
3. Willpower and Delayed Gratification
One of my favorite parts of this book is the focus on the habit everyone has: willpower (also check out The Willpower Instinct book). While everyone has it, it’s not always strong. In order to change your routines, you have to build your willpower. Not only does this aid in changing bad habits, but in building new habits.
Without strengthening your willpower, it’s much more difficult to gain full control over your habits and life. One suggestion for building your willpower is to pick one difficult task or routine that delays gratification.
Delaying gratification boosts your willpower, though it may not seem that way at first. Try to pick something outside your comfort zone, such as getting up early if you tend to sleep in or turning off all social media during work hours. The longer you stick to this difficult routine, the stronger your willpower.
You can also take time to prepare for the worst. If you’ve already dealt with the worst case scenario in your mind, you’re less likely to break if it happens. Then, your stronger willpower helps you push through.
4. Change Versus Stopping Habits
A common theme throughout the entire book is that you can’t just eliminate habits – they’re a part of your life. Instead, you have to change the existing habit, which goes back to the three-part loop. If you’re still working on building your willpower, wouldn’t it be much easier to change just one part of a habit versus trying to completely replace it with a new one?
In The Power of Habit, Duhigg provides examples and exercises to aid in this process. It’s not just a bunch of general advice that leaves you with nowhere to begin. The entire book is about better understanding habits in business, life, and more, including examples of major businesses. With the exercises, you can change your loop to go from unproductive habits to productive ones, giving you the control you’ve always wanted.
Looking to read more books? Check out some of the best time-management books you should read.