Why we do what we do and how to change. In The Power of Habit chapters, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation.
Habits aren’t destiny. As Charles Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.
Habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.
The habit loop: The process with our brain is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.
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Cue –Routine – Reward
Over time, this loop becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges. Eventually, a habit is born.
Habits never really disappear. They are encoded into the structures of our brain. If we learn to create new neurological routines that overpower those behaviors – if we take control of the habit loop – we can force those bad tendencies into the background. And once someone creates a new pattern, studies have demonstrated, going for a jog or ignoring the doughnuts becomes as automatic as any other habit.
Craving is what makes cues and rewards work. The craving is what powers the habit loop.
Habits create neurological cravings. As we associate cues with certain rewards, a subconscious craving emerges in our brain that starts the habit loop spinning. How to create a new habit: put together a cue, a routine and a reward, and then cultivate a craving that drives the loop.
A cue and a reward on their own aren’t enough for a new habit to last. Only when your brain starts expecting the reward – craving the endorphins or sense of accomplishment – will it become automatic to lace up your jogging shoes each morning. The cue, in addition to triggering a routine, must also trigger a craving for the reward to come.
Duhigg used a toothpaste example in the book from Claude Hopkins, the grandfather of modern advertising. Back in the early 1900’s Hopkins had the task of selling a new toothpaste called Pepsodent. Through his earlier ads he found they weren’t selling people on having beautiful teeth. Through much figuring, and wasted advertising spend, he realized he was actually selling a sensation. Once people craved that cool tingling – once they equated the fresh tingling of their mouths and gums with cleanliness, tooth brushing became a habit.
You can never truly extinguish bad habits. Rather, to change a habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine. That’s the rule; if you use the same cue, and provide the same reward, you can shift the routine and change the habit. Almost any behavior can be transformed if the cue and reward stay the same.
Alcoholics Anonymous succeeds because it helps alcoholics use the same cues, and get the same reward, but it shifts the routine. The program forces people to identify the cues and rewards that encourage their alcoholic habits, and then helps them find new behaviors. To change an old habit you must address an old craving. You have to keep the same cues and rewards as before, and feed the craving by inserting a new routine. AA forces people to create new routines for what to do each night instead of drinking.
Keystone Habits: Some habits have the power to start a chain reaction, changing other habits as they move through an organization. Some habits, in other words, matter more than others in remaking businesses and lives. These are Keystone Habits, and they can influence how people work, eat, play, live, spend, and communicate. Keystone habits start a process that, over time, transforms everything.
Keystone habits encourage change by creating structures that help other habits to flourish. Keystone habits transform us by creating cultures that make clear the values that, in the heat of a difficult decision or a moment of uncertainty, we might otherwise forget.
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The Power Of Habit also covers social habits.
For an idea to grow beyond a community, it must become self-propelling. And the surest way to achieve that is to give people new habits that help them figure out where to go on their own. Movements don’t emerge because everyone suddenly decides to face the same direction at once. They rely on social patterns that begin as the habit of friendship, grow through the habits of communities, and are sustained by new habits that change participant’s sense of self.
Once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom to remake them. If you believe you can change—if you make it a habit—the change becomes real. This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habit is what you choose it to be. Once that choice occurs—and becomes automatic—it´s not only real, it starts to seem inevitable.
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