book summary of the power of habit by charles duhigg

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Summarized by Vishal Kataria

The Book in One Paragraph

Habits are the choices we make deliberately at some point and then stop thinking about but continue doing, often every day. And since actions impact results to a large extent, we are often a result of our habits. All our habits are unconscious. But by being deliberate, we can adopt better habits to achieve success.

The Power of Habit Book Summary

This is my book summary of The Art of Learning by Charles Duhigg. The summary contains quotes, key takeaways, and lessons from the book.

  • Habits are automatic, a natural result of our repeated choices. By understanding how they occur, you can rebuild those patterns whichever way you choose.

  • A community in some sense is a giant collection of habits occurring among thousands of people. Depending on how they’re influenced, these habits could result in violence or peace.

  • Habits emerge because the brain looks for ways to conserve energy, thus allowing the mind to ramp down more often. We can use the energy for more important decisions at work, in our relationships, spending money, and more. Without habits, our brain would shut down, overwhelmed by the minutiae of daily life.

  • At the same time, it’s important to be mindful of the direction our habits lead us in. The brain stops being an active participant in decision-making when habits take over. Unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you consciously find new routines—the pattern will automatically unfold.

  • According to advertising guru Claude Hopkins, human psychology is grounded in two basic rules:

    • Find a simple, obvious cue, and

    • Clearly define the rewards.

      This is how advertisers can get human beings to buy products. This is also how habits get formed.

  • A habit is a repeated “Cue – Action – Reward” cycle. A person gets a cue that triggers a standard action that leads to a specific reward. It’s easier to convince someone to adopt a new behavior or habit if there’s something familiar at the beginning and end. To change a habit, keep the old cue, deliver the old result, but insert a new routine.

  • Some habits matter more than others in remaking lives and business. These are called “keystone habits”, and they can influence how people work, eat, live, play, spend, and communicate.

  • Keystone habits start processes that trigger small wins—steady application of small advantages. Such small wins set forces in motion that favor another small win. The cycle continues and fuels transformative change that turns tiny advantages into patterns.

  • Dozens of studies have shown that willpower is the single most important keystone habit for individual success.

  • “When you learn to force yourself to go to the gym or start your homework or eat a salad instead of a hamburger, you’re changing how you think. You get better at regulating impulses and distracting yourself from temptation. Once you get in the willpower groove, your brain is practiced at helping you focus on a goal.” — Todd Heatherton, researcher at Dartmouth

  • Howard Schultz grew up in a modest housing project and went on to become one of the most successful CEOs of the 20th century. When asked how he built it, he said, “My mom always said, ‘You’re going to be the first person to go the college, you’re going to be a professional, you’re going to make us all proud.’ She would ask little questions like ‘How are you going to study tonight? What are you going to do tomorrow? How do you know you’re ready for your test?’ It trained me to set goals.” Schultz also genuinely believes that if you tell people they have what it takes to succeed, they’ll prove you right.

  • The secret to embracing change is not introducing something novel. Ironically, it’s sticking to familiarity. “Hey Ya!” was a song that had the potential to become a superhit, but during the initial days, it received a lukewarm response each time it played on the radio. Then the DJs sandwiched the song between sticky songs—songs from artists like Maroon 5, Christina Aguilera, and 3 Doors Down—that people expected to hear on the radio. Such familiarity eventually warmed listeners up to Hey Ya which eventually went on to win multiple awards, including a Grammy.

  • “All our life, so far as it has a definite form, is but a mass of habits—practical, emotional, and intellectual—systematically organized for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly towards our destiny, whatever the latter may be.” — William James

About The Author

Vishal Kataria is a writer and podcaster who shares lessons he has learned about productivity, learning new skills, and self-improvement.

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