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The Power of Habit—By Charles Duhigg

My notes

I started listening to this book when I was driving across the country in 2016. I had to stop during a description of brain surgery, and later recalled the book-in-progress.

The big idea is the habit loop. Cue, routine, reward. This small pattern is in our lizard brain. We can program ourselves to respond automatically to cues. We can experiment with rewards. We can try to replace bad routines with good routines.

A handful of anecdotal examples were very interesting. The steel mill corporation focusing on safety. The gambling lady who was held accountable for her habits. The sleep walking murderers who are found not guilty for responding to a habit. The conclusion was satisfactory: habits are automatic, but it’s your responsibility to manipulate them when you have moments of clarity about them. Consciousness seemed to be a myth in the depths of the neuroscience… but the choice to believe made a mad man believe.

A fair mix of science and practical ways to use the information, I see why this book was so popular, and would pass on the recommendation.

The analogy of water was prominent in the end. Fish in water are humans in habits. They’re all around us, shaping our entire environments. You can miss them if you don’t stop and look around every once in a while.

Putting these ideas up next to Leaders Eat Last, The True Believer, and Thinking Fast and Slow… there’s a lot of overlap. The mix between how automatic things are, but how we’re also able to observe them and refine them. The story of Rosa Parks and Montgomery as social habit, next to the The True Believers rhetoric sparks thought, but nothing I completely understand yet. Rick Warren and Saddleback got a mention as being the pioneer of placing Christianity into daily habits in the US.

I’m compelled to look for habits at work and home, and how I can camouflage new habits into them. There’s the risk of being manipulative with this information, which reminds me of the honeymoon period of organizations embracing Myers Briggs profiles.


The Power of Habit
Charles Duhigg