The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg

Video Book Summary

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Book Summary Notes 

The Power of Habit

“This book draws on hundreds of academic studies, interviews with more than three hundred scientists and executives, and research conducted at dozens of companies." 

"It focuses on habits as they are technically defined: the choices that all of us deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about but continue doing, often every day."

"At one point, we all consciously decided how much to eat and what to focus on when we got to the office, how often to have a drink or when to go for a jog." 

"Then we stopped making a choice, and the behavior became automatic. It’s a natural consequence of our neurology. And by understanding how it happens, you can rebuild those patterns in whichever way you choose.”

When does behavior become automatic?

Everyone lives the majority of their life through habit!

We'll talk more about this later but this is simply how the human animal has evolved.. 

The brain is physically wired to live off habit!  

Habits are neither good or bad they are expected.  However of course some are wanted and unwanted!

This book is all about the process!

What the habit building process looks like and what science can tell us about it..

How we can create new wanted habits and get rid of unwanted ones..

Why habits can sometimes be hard to break or to create and some of the common misconceptions..

Gain control:

Every feel like you're living a groundhog day?

Constantly doing the same thing day after day without being able to make a change.. 

This book contains the process for how you can make that change and many others along the way!


“Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort."

"Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often."

"This effort-saving instinct is a huge advantage. An efficient brain requires less room, which makes for a smaller head, which makes childbirth easier and therefore causes fewer infant and mother deaths.

"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.”

Habits are the brains way of saving effort..

The brain is all about conserving energy!

  • If you have to do something regularly the brain will make it automatic..  
  • Ever feel like you forget your entire drive home? Thanks Brain!  (It's a little terrifying how powerful it is).

This is why I say 'habits are neither good or bad'

  • Really what habits are is your brains way of making something you do regularly automatic.. 
  • Whether it's got a negative or positive outcome it doesn't really matter to the brain.


  • Let's test your awareness!  What are some habits you have currently in your life?
  • Preferably we want to spend some time looking at ones that you didn't intentionally create and might not even think of as 'habits'
  • Spending time in reflection here will give you a good idea of just how much of your life is built on habits!

Three Steps

“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.”

This three step loop is our foundation today..

If you want to create a habit you need too look at each part of the loop!

  • The Cue
  • The Routine
  • The Reward

These three things lead to a habit!

  • We'll cover more about each one later in the mind map.. 
  • But for now!  Just remember that anytime you're having trouble making or breaking a habit..  Look at these three things!


“If you want to start running each morning, it’s essential that you choose a simple cue." 

"(like always lacing up your sneakers before breakfast or leaving your running clothes next to your bed) and a clear reward (such as a midday treat, a sense of accomplishment from recording your miles, or the endorphin rush you get from a jog)."  

"But countless studies have shown that a cue and a reward, on their own, aren’t enough for a new habit to last.

"Only when your brain starts expecting the reward—craving the endorphins or sense of accomplishment—will it become automatic to lace up your jogging shoes each morning. The cue, in addition to triggering a routine, must also trigger a craving for the reward to come.”

The cue is the start of our habit loop..

Each step is important in and of itself!

  • But often we only think about the routine (what we want to do) and the reward (what we get) of the habit..
  • The secret here is that nothing happens without some sort of cue.. 

How do we create a cue?

From my experience the easiest way to create a cue is to attach a habit to something you're already doing..

  • Drinking Coffee > Meditation
  • Going to Sleep > Reading
  • Break at Work > Breathing Deep

But of course Charles shows us here how we can setup the cue the night before!  Which is also super effective.. 

Whatever you decide to do make it a clear cue that is easily setup and repeatable!

But just a cue is not enough!

  • More about this later..  But the cue that we setup must actually lead to a reward if it's going to setup our habit loop!
  • Meaning you must actually give yourself some type of reward after the routine for it to stick!  
  • Remember, the cue MUST lead to a feeling of reward vs a feeling of 'work' for it to stick!


“It wasn’t the trip to Cairo that had caused the shift, scientists were convinced, or the divorce or desert trek."

"It was that Lisa had focused on changing just one habit—smoking—at first."

"Everyone in the study had gone through a similar process. By focusing on one pattern—what is known as a “keystone habit”—Lisa had taught herself how to reprogram the other routines in her life, as well.”

One habit to rule them all..

The 'Keystone Habit' and it's effects!

  • Charles tells us a story of a lady who quit smoking and her entire life changed..  
  • Some people might think she had a psychotic break and threw her old life away!
  • But that's not the case..  She simply changed a Keystone habit!

The basic idea of keystone habits:

  • There is one habit in your life that if you change it will have a huge outsized impact on you.. 
  • It will change your preferences, personality and your self confidence..
  • Plus it's usually one of the most difficult habits to change..  Meaning every other habit is a little easier after you've been through it!

What is your keystone habit?

Think about the habit that will have the most positive impact on your life..

Could be:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Quitting drinking
  • Meditating
  • Reading more

Once you've made the commitment and changed that habit: the rest will be easier, you'll have newfound energy and be ready to tackle the next change head on!


“How do habits change?"   

"There is, unfortunately, no specific set of steps guaranteed to work for every person. We know that a habit cannot be eradicated—it must, instead, be replaced."

"And we know that habits are most malleable when the Golden Rule of habit change is applied: If we keep the same cue and the same reward, a new routine can be inserted. But that’s not enough."

"For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible. And most often, that belief only emerges with the help of a group.”

There are two ingredients to changing habits..

First the Golden Rule:

When trying to change a habit it's best if you can keep the cue and the reward the same..

But then change the routine (the thing you do) in the middle of those two things..

By keeping those two the same you make it as easy as possible to change the habit!


Drinking coffee in the morning and scrolling on IG?  The cue is coffee and reward is well coffee.

Here we can easily replace the scrolling on IG with meditation and get the same cue + reward with a different routine!

Next if Belief:

  • For a habit to stay changed you need to believe that change is possible.
  • "I wouldn’t have said this a year ago—that’s how fast our understanding is changing,” said Tonigan, the University of New Mexico researcher, “but belief seems critical. You don’t have to believe in God, but you do need the capacity to believe that things will get better.”

Belief happens in groups..

  • If you can find a group of people that are making or trying to make the same change as you it's extremely helpful..
  • Seeing people who have done it before is a way to supercharge your belief that you can do it!


“When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, often unknowingly."  

"Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed."

"It’s not completely clear why. But for many people, exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change. “Exercise spills over,” said James Prochaska, a University of Rhode Island researcher. “There’s something about it that makes other good habits easier.”

Exercise is kind of a magic elixir..  

Coming from a owning my own gym I know this is true!

  • So often people would come into the gym to lose weight..
  • Only to leave completely different people!

They changed this one habit from 'non-gym goers' to 'gym goers' and it changed their life..

  • Often people would switch careers, make huge life changes or just have different personalities!
  • All because of the confidence and self determination they built in the gym..


“Hundreds of habits influence our days" 

"They guide how we get dressed in the morning, talk to our kids, and fall asleep at night; they impact what we eat for lunch, how we do business, and whether we exercise or have a beer after work. Each of them has a different cue and offers a unique reward."

"Some are simple and others are complex, drawing upon emotional triggers and offering subtle neurochemical prizes."  

"But every habit, no matter its complexity, is malleable. The most addicted alcoholics can become sober. The most dysfunctional companies can transform themselves. A high school dropout can become a successful manager."

"However, to modify a habit, you must decide to change it. You must consciously accept the hard work of identifying the cues and rewards that drive the habits’ routines, and find alternatives. You must know you have control and be self-conscious enough to use it—and every chapter in this book is devoted to illustrating a different aspect of why that control is real.”

No matter how complex or ingrained; every habit is malleable!  A message of hope for some..

Habits with negative outcomes that have been in our lives for a long time can feel immovable!

  • Maybe you've tried to exercise or eat healthy dozens of time before to no avail..
  • That can make it feel like the habit just can't be changed!  We've all been there..

But every habit is malleable!

  • That doesn't mean they are all going to be easy.. 
  • Actually we would do better to accept that every habit change is going to be hard!

Focus on the three steps:

  • Identify your cues
  • Craft your routine
  • Deliver the reward
  • Bonus step:

Continue to make it better.. 

Try again if you fail at first..

Be self-compassionate..

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