The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Three parts to this book:

  1. How habits emerge within individual lives.
  2. Exploring the neurology of habit formation.
  3. How to build new habits and change old ones.

 

Main Take Aways:

 

  1. Central Argument: Habits can be changed, if we understand how they work.
  2. Habits as they are technically defined: the choices that all of us deliberately make at some point, and then stop thinking about but continue doing, often every day.
  3. We know that a habit cannot be eradicated—it must, instead, be replaced.
  4. Willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things.”
  5. Changing habits-
    1. Understand them
    2. EXPERIMENT WITH REWARDS Rewards are powerful because they satisfy cravings. But we’re often not conscious of the cravings that drive our behaviors.
    3. ISOLATE THE CUE
    4. HAVE A PLAN Once you’ve figured out your habit loop—you’ve identified the reward driving your behavior, the cue triggering it, and the routine itself—you can begin to shift the behavior.

 

Stories from the book:

 

  1. One ad man (Hopkins) used to push toothbrushing from an obscure practice into a national obsession. It shows how Procter & Gamble turned a spray named Febreze into a billion-dollar business by taking advantage of consumers’ habitual urges.
  2. Tony Dungy reversed the fortunes of the worst team in the National Football League by focusing on his players’ automatic reactions to subtle on-field cues.
  3. how Starbucks turned a high school dropout into a top manager by instilling habits designed to strengthen his willpower.
  4. Squire’s studies would show that even someone who can’t remember his own age or almost anything else can develop habits that seem inconceivably complex—until you realize that everyone relies on similar neurological processes every day.
  5. Hopkins-He had seduced millions of women into purchasing Palmolive soap by proclaiming that Cleopatra had washed with it, despite the sputtering protests of outraged historians.
    1. He had made Puffed Wheat famous by saying that it was “shot from guns” until the grains puffed “to eight times normal size.” He had turned dozens of previously unknown products—Quaker Oats, Goodyear tires, the Bissell carpet sweeper, Van Camp’s pork and beans—into household names.
    2. so rich that his best-selling autobiography, My Life in Advertising, devoted long passages to the difficulties of spending so much money. Claude Hopkins
  6. But Febreze was different. It was a chance to launch an entirely new category of product—to add something to a consumer’s shopping cart that had never been there before.
  7. O’Neill & Alcoa figured his top priority, if he took the job, would have to be something that everybody—unions and executives—could agree was important.
    1. “We killed this man,” a grim-faced O’Neill told the group. “It’s my failure of leadership. I caused his death. And it’s the failure of all of you in the chain of command.”

 

Interesting ideas:

 

  1. Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often.
    1. This effort-saving instinct is a huge advantage. An efficient brain requires less room, which makes for a smaller head, which makes childbirth easier and therefore causes fewer infant and mother deaths. An efficient brain also allows us to stop thinking constantly about basic behaviors, such as walking and choosing what to eat, so we can devote mental energy to inventing spears, irrigation systems, and, eventually, airplanes and video games.
  2. Over time, this loop—cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward—becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges.
  3. The problem is that your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits, and so if you have a bad one, it’s always lurking there, waiting for the right cues and rewards.”1.20
  4. Put another way, a habit is a formula our brain automatically follows: When I see CUE, I will do ROUTINE in order to get a REWARD.
  5. Obviously, changing some habits can be more difficult. But this framework is a place to start. Sometimes change takes a long time. Sometimes it requires repeated experiments and failures.
  6. But once you understand how a habit operates—once you diagnose the cue, the routine and the reward—you gain power over it.
  7. You want to fall asleep fast and wake up feeling good? Pay attention to your nighttime patterns and what you automatically do when you get up. You want to make running easy? Create triggers to make it a routine.

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