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The Power of Habit Summary

Here’s The Power of Habit summary. Learn why habits exist and how you can change them. Learn how to be more productive, exercise regularly, and achieve more success by harnessing the power of habit.


The Power of Habit author Charles Duhigg presents a whole new understanding about habits, human nature, and our potential. He distilled vast amounts of researches and narratives to better understand habits.

Yes habits can change and you have the power to do so. You just need to understand more about it so you can change it and adopt something new. Understand that there is a 3-step loop that you can use to adopt new and positive habits.

About the Author

Charles Duhigg is a Pulitzer prize winner along with other New York Times reporters. They wrote a series of articles about the business practices of Apple and other technology companies.

He studied history at Yale and received an MBA from Harvard Business School. He has been studying the science of productivity and habit formation for many years.

Main takeaways: The Power of Habit Summary

Let’s discuss the key takeaways from his book:

  1. Use the cue-routine-reward loop to form new habits.
  2. Anticipate the reward.
  3. Habits are automatic, use that to your own advantage.

Use the cue-routine-reward loop to form new habits

Why and how do we form habits? Maybe our brains wants to conserve as much energy as possible. Our brains don’t want to think for every action. Habits help us save some energy in decision-making.

How do we form habits? It’s simple. It’s a 3-step process. It’s the cue-routine-reward loop.

First it’s the cue or the trigger. It tells your brain to go automatic once you encounter the trigger. For example the trigger could be as simple as waking up. You go automatic from there on. You fold the blanket and organize the bed. You do it without thinking.

Another trigger could be seeing your running shoes right after you wake up. That triggers you to start running and exercising. You go automatic. You don’t stay on the bed thinking whether you should run or not.

After the cue, it’s the routine. Habits are actually a series of steps. You do all of them without conscious thinking. For example when you brush your teeth. Do you think of each step? Do you think what area should you brush next in your mouth? No. You almost do all of the brushing motions automatically.

You can also do routine when you’re exercising. This way you save some mental energy on what to do next. For example, your routine would be running until you reach the nearest church. Then you go back home. It’s simple.

Next is the reward. This is important. It’s demoralizing and discouraging if you’re not seeing any reward from your efforts. This is true especially when exercising. It’s exhausting. You sweat a ton but your waistline is still the same. Both your mind and body craves some form of reward.

That’s why eating a chocolate bar after exercising is actually helpful. It’s delicious and all the effort’s worth it. That’s your reward after sweating a lot.

Well you might say that the chocolate bar will waste your efforts. It has high sugar and will help you gain more fat. But with it you will be more encouraged to exercise. No matter what you do you will eat anyway. Why not eat after doing your exercise routine.

Anticipate the reward

This is important. You must anticipate the reward at the end of your routine. You’re conditioning yourself that there’s always something good after you perform a certain action.

For example you’re writing a long article (at least 3,000 words). The thought of finishing a monster task excites you. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. Not everyone can write an article that long.

Children also anticipate some rewards. Some are excited to go to the church because after that they’ll be eating at a fast food restaurant. The delicious (but unhealthy) food is their reward.

Rewards keep us going. Both for short-term and long-term actions we need rewards. It’s more important in the latter because we’ll get discouraged if we feel we’re working for nothing.

So whenever you plan to form a new habit, define and set up a reward. Motivation is not enough. The promise of getting a healthier body also might not be enough. Setting up an immediate reward is important whether it’s a sense of accomplishment or just a sweet treat.

Habits are automatic, use that to your own advantage

Habits help you save tons of mental energy. Instead of relying on your willpower to exercise or to eat healthy, habits take over. You don’t have to be thinking all day when deciding. Your body acts automatically.

Positive habits can help you get a lot of things done. For example if it’s your habit to write an article right after turning on your laptop, within a few months you’ll finish dozens of articles.

But if it’s your habit to check your Facebook feed whenever you turn on your laptop, you won’t get a lot done. Maybe the reward there is a few laughs and staying connected. But in the long run you won’t accomplish much.

So start building positive habits now. You’ll be surprised of how much you can do with small habits and how much you can accomplish within a few months or years.

You’ve learned the advantages of having positive habits and how the cue-routine-reward loop works. Aside from those you’ll also learn the following from The Power of Habit book:

  • How leaders create habit through accident and design
  • How companies predict your actions
  • More insights about subconscious cravings
  • How companies manipulate our habits and increase their sales
  • The power of belief in changing our habits

My personal takeaways

It’s a simple framework. Cue-routine-reward. Whenever I want to form a new habit I should always remember that. I should set a cue so it becomes automatic. I should also set the routine so I don’t have to think about it. Then I should have the reward ready to reinforce the habit I’m practicing.

It’s also important to have a strong belief that I can change something. This way I won’t give in and just start eliminating the bad habits. Then I would also have the belief that I can adopt positive habits whenever I want to. Just use the framework and stick to it.

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