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Summary of The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

A practical guide for anyone who has been trying to quit a habit (for example eating junk food or quitting smoking) but finds them-self in an unending loop of temptation that leads to a relapse that leaves them with remorse and anger, wishing they could have stopped them-self at the right time and for anyone who has been trying to focus on something (e.g studying) but lose their focus after a while and finds themselves procrastinating on social media.

About the book:

The power of Habit is a book about the useful and significant roles that habits play in a person’s life varying from personal life to professional life or the habits that can be seen on a larger scale such as the whole community, society or the successful organizations.

It talks about the importance of willpower and how one can control their actions through it.

The Author of The Power of Habit:

Charles Duhigg is an award winning former reporter of New-York Times, a journalist and a non-fiction author.

In the book, The Power of Habit, he takes the readers on a scientific journey of how and why humans develop different habits and how they can be practically altered or replaced.

1. Part one: The habits of individuals

This part focuses on how habits are created and are functional without the part of the brain that is involved in keeping memories as the book talks about Eugene Pauly, a 71 years old man, who had a short-term memory loss due to viral encephalitis and even refused to recognise his own loved ones or his home.

His wife took him for a walk everyday and then one day he took the same route and was able to find the way back home from the walk himself, which proved that people make unconscious choices without remembering why they had to do it which results in an automatic routine (such as waking up every morning and brushing your teeth) and that’s how a habit is formed.

The habit loop consists of a Cue (a stimulus), a Routine (a behaviour that follows acue) and a Reward (that lets the brain know that routine is worth remembering).

In 1900s, Claude C. Hopkins, took advantage of the habit loop and used it for the advertisement of ‘Pepsodent’ toothpaste and ‘Quaker Oats’.

He used to find various triggers that would convince – “He created a craving. And that craving, it turns out, is what makes cues and rewards work. That craving is what powers the habit loop.”

Habits, however, can be altered or replaced if a new habit is successfully fitted in with the same cue and reward.

2. Part two: The habits of successful organizations

According the the author, keystone habits are “small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.” This is also used on the mass scale such as organisations.

Organisations work through their habits instead of using logic – “individuals have habits, organisations have routines.” Keystone habits help to create wins that are small but life changing as they help in creating new habits that other people too can follow.

A marshmallow study showed how important willpower is to create an automatic habit. Children who could resist eating a marshmallow to get a better reward and double treat later were to become much more successful adults who also scored higher on their SATs and did fewer drugs than others.

3. Part three: The habits of societies

The arrest of Rosa Parks’ on the Montgomery bus lead to a boycott of the bus which became successful because such movements are carried out when new habits are created which helps people to have their own identity and that inturn makes such movements successful.

Rick Warren took advantage of habits to build Saddleback Church into the amazing church that it is today.

Angie Bachmann who was a bored housewife went to casino one day put of boredom, turned it into a weekly habit and eventually became good at it and became a habituate gambler but then she started having troubles with it to a point that her gambling debt became more than $20k.

She said that “I know that sounds like somebody who’s got a problem not recognizing their problem, but the only mistake I made was not quitting” – which shows that a person must know when and where to quit a habit.

Conclusion of the power of habit:

Habits are based on various things, one of the most important being a willpower and they are followed through a routine instead of logic and the original idea which then leads to a reward.

Once a person understands what their habit is, they can work on it and modify it accordingly by giving it the same stimulus and receiving back the same reward as their previous habit. To change a habit, it is important to replace it with a new one.

As Charles Duhigg says that “The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do” and that “Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped”.

No matter how strong a person’s willpower is, while changing a habit, they’re bound to fail several times before accomplishing their goal.

Statistics show that smokers fail more than seven times before actually quitting – this isn’t seen as a failure because they’re only adapting to the change and learning different ways that work for them to quit their habit.

The technique is to not give up and to not let the relapse affect the decision of changing a habit. This book leaves a person with a solid recipe to increase the quality of their life.

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