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Saturday, June 30, 2012

July Review - The Power of Habit

Habits can be good or bad.  Getting up early to exercise is a great habit.  Sitting down the night before with that big bowl of ice cream to watch TV is not a very good habit.  So, how do we form these habits and how do we choose which to keep and which to get rid of?  Good news, Charles Duhigg just wrote a book that tells us, The Power of Habit. 

Every now and then I come across books and articles that are profound (in my humble estimation).  Often they are written by reporters who have special training and interest in different areas.  We have seen books like this from Daniel Goleman (Emotional Intelligence), Malcolm Gladwall (Blink, The Tipping Point etc) and now Charles Duhigg.  They plow through the mountains of research (some you really do have to have some expertise just to understand) and then distill it into something easy to understand and apply to our lives.  This is what Charles Duhigg has done for us.

There is a Brain App for That

Habits, according to Duhigg, account for nearly half of all decisions we make in a day.  When we do something for the first time our conscious mind is busy tracking and adjusting to ensure that we are able to do the task well.  If you are learning to ride a bicycle your conscious mind is on high alert looking for potential danger and trying to put all the actions together: steering, pedaling, balancing, etc.  This takes a lot of thought and leaves little time for the mind to focus on anything else.  But over time and with practice the brain writes an “app” , we will call it the bicycle app, that is soon running in the background.  Now you get on the bicycle and set off to your destination while listening to your ipod or day dreaming about something pleasant.  Your conscious mind no longer has to worry about how to ride the bicycle.  The art of bicycle riding has become a habit.

Now multiply this by thousands of repetitious actions and you end up with hundreds of mental apps.  Everything from your wake up routine to driving a car has been automated.  All those things you do and have done in the same basic way for years are now, thankfully, placed in the “there is an app for that” category.  Another way to think of these apps is as habits.  Habits are simply the expression of the app.  When you get to work what do you do?  You get home from work and what is that first thing you do?  We need habits to free up our conscious mind to think about more important things.  But sometimes habits move to the dark side and become a hindrance rather than a blessing.  You will need to read the book to find the short cuts to dealing with both good and bad habit.

Quotes from the book

An efficient brain also allows us to stop thinking constantly about basic behaviors, such as walking and choosing what to eat, so we can devote mental energy to inventing spears, irrigation systems, and, eventually, airplanes and video games.

Cravings are what drive habits. 

Habits are a three-step loop—the cue, the routine, and the reward

But 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.

The truth is, the brain can be reprogrammed. You just have to be deliberate about it.

Belief was the ingredient that made a reworked habit loop into a permanent behavior.

....there’s nothing you can’t do if you get the habits right.

More Reviews

For a fuller review go to: Book Review
There is even a free Study Guide you can get!

Table of Contents


1. The Habit Loop - How Habits Work
2. The Craving Brain - How to Create New Habits
3. The Golden Rule of Habit Change - Why Transformation Occurs


4. Keystone Habits, or The Ballad of Paul O'Neill - Which Habits Matter Most
5. Starbucks and the Habit of Success - When Willpower Becomes Automatic
6. The Power of a Crisis - How Leaders Create Habits Through Accident and Design
7. How Target Knows What You Want Before You Do - When Companies Predict (and manipulate) Habits


8. Saddleback Church and the Montgomery Bus Boycott - How Movements Happen
9. The Neurology of Free Will - Are We Responsible for Our Habits?

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