The Power of Habit – Book Review

A few weeks ago, I snagged the audio version of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. Within the first few pages, I instantly fell in love with his style of writing.

Charles is a Pulitzer Prize-winning business reporter for the New York Times. Although this book is chock full of science and research, it is also sprinkled with stories and examples that bring the science to life.

The book itself is divided into three parts:

  1. The Habits of Individuals
  2. The Habits of Successful Organizations
  3. The Habits of Societies

The first third of the book was my absolute favorite. In it, Mr. Duhigg describes how habits are formed, what the parts of the habit loop are, and what to focus on in order to change your habits.

According to his research, a habit is comprised of 3 components — “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 behavior to use. The there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is the reward . . .”

The Power of Habit is a great book by Charles Duhigg. I loved learning the science behind what habits are, how they are formed, and above all - what to focus on in order to change your habits.

* This post contains affiliate links. In plain English, this means that I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you) if you subscribe or purchase something through the links provided. You will never see me post a link to a product or service that I haven’t used myself and love! (Learn more here) Thank you for supporting Boho Berry!

THE POWER OF HABIT

While reading about the habit loop that the author describes, I found myself nodding along. Mainly because my most recent habit change (quitting smoking) was so fresh in my mind, that I was able to recognize the correlations and see that the reason I was able to quit is that I did exactly what the book suggests. I changed up my routine.

THE HABIT LOOP

The habit loop is comprised of three elements:

  1. The Cue: Think of cues like triggers. What are you doing at the moment that craving for “X” hits? Where are you? What are you doing? What time is it? Any of these answers can be the cue or trigger that urges you towards your normal habit.
  2. The Routine: The routine is the act itself. Smoking a cigarette, eating a cookie, biting your nails… The same applies to good habits. Brushing your teeth, going for a run, cleaning up after you make a mess.
  3. The Reward: The reward is that good feeling you get after you’ve completed your routine. This could be anything from momentary stress relief (smoking a cigarette), satisfying your sweet tooth (eating a cookie), a release from boredom (biting your nails).

I found this analysis fascinating as Charles dove into the science behind the power of habit. What struck me the most though was the end of the book, where he explains the method for changing those bad habits. Here’s a little break down for you:

from The Power of Habit by Charles Duhig.
Psst! This is a downloadable PDF! Just click on the image to download your own :)

First, you determine the cue. By asking yourself a series of questions, you can determine what the trigger is for the habit in question. Try to think about what remains consistent every time you get a craving.

The second step is to determine the reward. What are you gaining by completing your habit?

The third step is to replace the routine (the act itself) with something that will give you the same reward.

The next time your cue arises, try a different routine that gives you the same reward.

The author uses an example of a bad habit he once had — eating a cookie every afternoon at work.

“By learning how to analyze my habit, I figured out that the reason I walked to the cafeteria each day wasn’t because I was craving a chocolate chip cookie. It was because I was craving socialization, the company of talking to my colleagues while munching. That was the habit’s real reward. And the cue for my behavior – the trigger that caused me to automatically stand up and wander to the cafeteria, was a certain time of day.

So, I reconstructed the habit: now, at about 3:30 each day, I absentmindedly stand up from my desk, look around for someone to talk with, and then gossip for about 10 minutes. I don’t even think about it at this point. It’s automatic. It’s a habit. I haven’t had a cookie in six months.”

I know first-hand that this is easier said than done though. 

Take, for example, my 15-year smoking habit. Time and time again, I tried to quit smoking. First, I tried to quit cold turkey. Then, I tried the patch, and nicotine gum, and even just gradually weaning myself down.

Ultimately, what finally worked (in April of 2015) was switching to an electronic vaporizer. Looking back on it now, I realize that the reason this worked is because I changed up my routine. I had the same cues (waking up, eating food, getting in my car), and I got the same reward (feeling relaxed, alleviating boredom), but I changed up my routine by switching to a less harmful method.


All-in-all, I highly recommend The Power of Habit to anyone interested in changing bad habits. If you also happen to be fascinated by the science of how our brains work (as I am), then you’ll love this book.

I loved listening to the audio version of the book while driving and doing other things around the house. If you haven’t tried Audible yet, you can click here to download 2 free audiobooks when you sign up for the free trial. You’re welcome :)

* This post contains affiliate links. In plain English, this means that I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you) if you subscribe or purchase something through the links provided. You will never see me post a link to a product or service that I haven’t used myself and love! (Learn more here) Thank you for supporting Boho Berry! 

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