the power of habit book

Charles Duhigg’s ‘The Power of Habit’: The healthy habit playbook

In his groundbreaking book The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg elucidates upon convincing and easy-to-apply methods to change old habits and form new ones that can impact our lives positively.

Habits are actions that shape our lives. We acquire them over time doing the same things again and again. Depending on the nature of our habits, they can be either healthy or unhealthy. For example, eating meals on time, going for walks and meditating are habits that are good for you. Whereas habits such as smoking or drinking alcohol, not sleeping on time, and procrastination can have detrimental effects on your life. But no matter what your habits are, one thing is clear. They play a huge role in defining who you are and where your life is headed. If you can take control of your habits, you can take control of your life.

In his groundbreaking book, The Power of Habit, American journalist and non-fiction author Charles Duhigg shares easy-to-apply methods to change old habits and form new ones. Using scientific research and real-life stories, Duhigg explains how you can change your daily habits to transform your life. Here are some key lessons that you can learn from The Power of Habit.

Understand how habits are formed

In his book, Duhigg explains how habits are formed in a three-step loop: cue, routine, and reward. He writes, “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.”

A cue can be a specific place, event, anything that can act as a trigger for a particular habit to kick in. Your home, a particular time of the day, a noisy neighbour, or your state of mind could all function as cues. The routine could be activities such as going to work, exercising or meditating. The third aspect, the reward, is the benefit you get from doing that routine, which makes your brain remember it.

Identify the healthy and unhealthy habits

In The Power of Habit, Duhigg gives an example of a woman named Lisa Allen, who had started smoking and drinking at the age of 16. She struggled with obesity throughout her life and had thousands of dollars in debt. But Lisa drastically turned her life around when she decided to quit smoking. She discovered that her smoking habit was stopping her from leading a healthy life and accomplishing her goal: trekking the desert around the pyramids of Giza in Egypt. She eventually replaced her smoking habit with jogging, which spurred massive change in how she slept, ate, saved money et cetera. The same Lisa ran marathons, half-marathons, got a great job and bought a house. How did she achieve this transformation? By identifying that her unhealthy habits were hindering her growth. Like Lisa, you too can assess the habits that either obstruct or promote your growth.

Learn how to create new habits and change old ones

“Cravings are what drive habits. And figuring out how to spark a craving makes creating a new habit easier,” Duhigg writes. Cravings play a huge role in creating new habits. But to achieve this, you need to depend on the aforementioned three-step loop. For example, if you want to create a habit of exercising, create a cue, routine and reward. What could be your cue? Assess whether a friend, a colleague or a sportsperson inspires you to become fitter. Keep that as the motivation or a trigger for your intent to start exercising. Next up, try to create a routine. Dedicate a specific time and schedule for your workout regime every day and stick to it. Think about the endorphin rush or a delicious smoothie as your reward.

How do you change an old habit? Duhigg suggests a tweak in the loop: keep the old cue and reward, but “insert a new routine.” He says that “almost any behaviour can be transformed if the cue and reward stay the same.” By changing the routine, you can alter any habit. For example, if you munch on snacks throughout the day and want to stop doing that, first, identify the reward. Do you do that to satiate your hunger or to break your boredom? If the answer is the latter, you can easily change the routine to something different, such as going for a quick run or meditating. That way, you can have a healthy interruption as an alternative to your habit of eating unhealthily.

How positive keystone habits can change your life

“Keystone habits say that success doesn’t depend on getting every single thing right, but instead relies on identifying a few key priorities and fashioning them into powerful levers,” writes Duhigg in The Power of Habit. Keystone habits are essential for developing habits that can lead to positive results. However, you must identify the positive keystone habits that can propel you towards a better life. Effective time management is a good example of a healthy keystone habit. It enables you to prioritise your tasks depending on their importance, which helps boost your productivity. When you are more productive, your road towards success automatically becomes smoother. On the contrary, poor time management leads to piled-up tasks, stress and low productivity. Once you’ve identified a positive keystone habit, you can implement it to foster your growth.


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