Power of habit Charles Duhigg review book

Do you have a habit? I bet you have many habits that you barely notice and bother because your brain is not working when the habit performs 🙂

Don’t misunderstand when I laugh like that. The explanation is true and I say that with my way. In the book “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, the statement in the book is different.

” Most people’s habits have occurred for so long they don’t pay attention to what causes it anymore”.

You might feel normal when you hear about the word “habit”, but how much do you know about YOUR HABITS? how much you understand about “the habit” in a normal term?

Definition of “habit”?

According to Wikipedia, “habit” is a routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously.

However, the American Journal of Psychology in 1903, a “habit”, from the standpoint of psychology, [as] a more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience.

And for Charles Duhigg, he doesn’t add the definition in his book. Instead, he presents many studies, some case studies in order to explain how the habit looks like. Charles Duhigg doesn’t dig more details about the habit’s definition. I ‘m sure about it because I read the whole book in one ESL class about 2 years ago. (ESL acronyms of English as Second Language)

Charles jumps right into the habit loop which personally, I find the cognitive behavior therapy shares the similar things with Duhigg’s habit loop. The cognitive behavior therapy has three principles:

  • What we think
  • What we feel
  • and What we understand

You don’t see the connection between the habit and the cognitive behavior therapy – CBT? The common is their purpose.

Both are used to changing the behaviors.

With habits, you can replace the old, bad habit by changing the new routines. Or you can completely create one new habit and override the existing habits -> that are two ways to change the behaviors.

With CBT, you need a therapist to help you to change the behaviors. You can perform the CBT by yourself but -.- I do not guarantee that it will work because the CBT starts with the cognition. When you understand, the pattern of thinking and feeling would change as well. The brain will need more energy for CBT. In contrast, once you design the habit, then your brain won’t work anymore because the habit takes over.

How does the habit work?

According to his book Part one first chapter (which is individual’s habit), all habits (human included animals) are composed by three core elements (in Part two and Part three, Charles releases two more elements which fulfill a good habit):

  • The cue or the trigger or the hint
  • The series of routines
  • And last is the reward

Habit loop core elements

With those three, you can design any habit. However, this habit won’t last long (within 15 days into 30 days max; then, you might drop the habit or replace or the habit reinforce into your daily routines more than 30 days ) since it still misses one special thing plus one more thing when you want to make a new habit or change the behaviors.

The special thing which keeps the habit running calls “the craving”. The most visible craving is the pregnancy moment. During the first three months of pregnancy, the woman is craving to eat some specific foods. This craving is similar with the want, but it’s little deeper and stronger because sometimes you just can not do what you want depends on the circumstances. (we call discipline, right?)

In the simple word, when you crave something, you NEED TO HAVE THAT THING. When you have that thing already, you will feel satisfied; therefore, the craving will disappear.

That is the main thing Charles Duhigg writes in chapter 2 – Part 1. Finish two chapters in Part one, you will have the whole picture of the habit.

Habit full

Following my teacher homework back then, I created one completely new habit. At home, I gave a certain amount of thinking what is my first new habit look like? What kind of habit do I create? The hardest part is determining the craving. Done thinking, I write down the habit’s elements into the paper for submitting to my teacher. Below is the new habit that I created following my teacher’s order and the Power of Habit book instruction.

My cue: an A4 blank paper

My routine was: write at least half that A4 paper and the content is about the fiction story.

The reward: going to sleep. (back then, I do homework at nighttime)

The craving: satisfied my own imagination, send my imagination free.

Therefore, my new habit design was done-> just follow the blueprint and do the actions. The first 3 days were a little hard since I need to think about the fiction story starting point. However, I did write as I design: about half blank A4 paper. I took a picture of the content I wrote as an evidence for my teacher daily. The days after, I increased the length of writing. There were some days, I wrote completely 2 full A4 papers with double pages.

Everything about my writing-habit was good enough since I saw how smoothly I engaged the habit routine. Then, one obstacle rose.

How the habit can be changed?

Since I made the suitable new habit for me, it was easy going through, but not my classmates. Some classmates need to change the habit. The solution lied on the Part 1 chapter 3 – “The golden rule of habit change”.

“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”. (page 62 if you need the place quoting)

That’s the rule you need to remember. In the book, Charles finds many examples of this rule’s improvement. This rule does help people who addicted to alcohol, smoke and other bad behaviors to change.

For the changing habit become a success, you need to know about “competing response”. It means you need to use the willpower to resist back with your old routine -> think about the new pattern.

Taking the example right in the book.

Mandy – who is a 24-years-old graduate student –  has a bad habit: biting her nails until they bled. The bitting-nail habit becomes more serious and aggressive way. It damages Mandy social life. She wants to change that habit to improve her social life and the overall life.

Female biting nail

Mandy is referred to a Psychologist, and the therapist uses “habit reversal training”. At the first session, the therapist helps Mandy to realize her bitting-nail habit (what causes, how is work, etc.). Mandy habit is liked:

Her cue: a tension in her fingertips

Her old routine: bitting her nails.

Her reward: a physical stimulation she had come to crave.

Her craving (Mandy doesn’t know about this part except us, the therapist, and who read this book): craving for stimulation.

The therapist requests Mandy to perform the “competing response” whenever she feels that tension in her fingertips. Mandy should immediately

  • put her hands in her pockets or under her legs woman-hand in pocket
  • or grip a pencil
  • or rubbing her arm
  • or rapping her knuckles on a desk
  • or do something else that made it impossible to put her fingers in her mouth.

An index card is given to Mandy for tracking if she successful override the old habit or not.

The result of a week later, Mandy has bitten her nails only three times. After a month, the bitting-nails habit is gone. Her new habit is enforced.

Her cue is still the same: a tension in her fingertips

Her new routines: anything that would produce a physical response

Her reward is more specific than before: a manicure.


When you read until this line, you have the summary of the first part in his book. The second part – The habits of the successful organizations will give you an eye-open because you will know how the Target stores target your shopping habit. Honestly, I very rarely go shopping in Target stores, so I can not tell more detail because it might violence the copyright of merchant. And for the book, Charles Duhigg has the agreement with those organizations for sharing the insight. (not me -.- Even I want to share more, it is just can’t because of law)

One more organization habit I like is the safety habit O’Neill built for the Alcoa company. O’Neill reduces the workplace injuries down to zero.

Besides, you will see how Starbucks trained the new employees. You will cross one case study with Starbucks from new employee to two branches Starbucks managers. Also, you will learn about the willpower in this chapter.

At page 137, “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”

The last Part – The habits of Societies will share how the movements happen with “the Montgomery bus boycott”. And the last chapter, Charles ends with “are we responsible for our habits?”. When you buy the full book with 380 pages, you will learn about his after work, about his own habit with “a reader’s guide to using these ideas”

Here is the video summary what is written in the book as an audible version. Enjoy the video 🙂

Final thought

I recommend you should buy the full book with 380 pages total. What benefits you can earn in the future with the book in hands:

  • You can reread as long as you need to understand -> design-> make new or replace your old, bad habits.
  • You don’t stress your eyes when you read a book.
  • With “a reader’s guide to using these ideas”, you can work on your diet by yourselves. If you want to change into a healthier eating habit, this book is way better than diet guidebook because no one understands your body except you.
  • By comprehensive this book, as parents, you can design a good habit for your young children.
  • Or you can change your life into better starting with a small habit. The book said we have many habits, but only one keystone habit can change your life completely. (I do not mention to the negative change as you lost your loved ones)

If you don’t have much time to read, a summary book of “the power of habit” only has about 10% of the full book’s page.

The best online place to buy is Amazon. ( You have known Amazon original is an online bookstore, right?)

The second option is Abebook with free shipping. (or you can visit the Abebook store right inside the Amazon network)

If you have read this book, can you leave your thought below? can you share what habits you design? Do you success to change one old habit? if so, how you can do that?

P/S: those links in this post are the affiliate links. When you click on it, the link will link you away of this website and landing on the merchants. You don’t pay anything. If you are interested in the book and place the order, then I might receive a small commission. If you want to change from a customer into an earner, Wealthy Affiliate community will glad to support you to build a stable foundation for running your own business.

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Comments 6

  • That’s a great book review. Personally I liked the detail went in on the post. It showed that you actually read the book and know it in and out.
    I would like to change some of my bad habits and condition myself to new good habits. so this book is really what I would like to have.
    your writing experiment is also very practical example. As a new blogger, I need to come with writing habits. i think I would try that half a page experiment and see how it goes.

    I will definitely try to get hold of the book!

    • hello Khalfish 🙂 As I share in the post, for me, the craving element which drive the writing habit is setting free my imagination-> but for you, it’s different. You need to sit down offline-> give a time to design your own writing habit. What is your cue, your routine(s), your reward, the craving and the willpower sometimes when something distracted. 

      I think for online blogger is the same. They might plan out offline what need to write-> then write it with distraction free setting. 

      Thank you for stopping by 🙂 have a nice day there! 

  • Hi,

    there is the saying that the human “is an animal of habits”, as I know it in German.  That saying came into my mind immediately after reading your first laugh.

    Yes, we as humans do things by habits, and it often bothers me.  We do not even think why we are doing things a certain way, we just do them because we do them.

    This book sounds rather interesting.  I believe as we get older, we acquire more habits, which is not good for our brain, but also not good for everyone who is near us.  Some habits are bad, and we need to be willing to push ourselves to change them.

    What an interesting book review.  I hope I can take the time to read this book soon.  You mentioned that it is good for parents to make good habits for their children.  Well, believe me, I am in that phase now with my children.  And that can be tough.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Oscar

    • Hi Oscar 🙂 

      In the book, Charles Duhigg shares about one case study. By following that case study, he generates the habit loop for us. The case study is about one old man who has left-over damage from his previous accident. Therefore, he has an amnesia. He can eat multiple breakfast with unhealthy food such as bacon, cheese in a day. His wife worries about his health condition. She finds a way to change his eating habit thanks to the habit’s knowledge. 

      Besides his unhealthy eating habit, the couple also builds one habit together. Every afternoon, they always go for a walk. They go same route over and over. 

      One day, during the normal daily walk, his wife is distracted by someone, something else;therefore, she leaves her husband. After, the wife finds that her husband is missing, not be her side. She urges to go every place in the neighbor, in the community for find him. 

      Do you know where is he? 🙂

      Let’s me tell you. He is at home! haha It means that he follows his walking habit. He follows the daily routine for walking. No matter what, his muscles still remember the route road, the pattern of the walking. And the finishing line of the walk is the house’s living room. 

      That’s one good example for a good habit for couple. 

      And for statement:”I hope I can take the time to read this book soon”. The audiobook version “The Power of habit  by Charles Duhigg book summary” would fit your situation. You can find it here: the book summary.

      Thank you for stopping by and reading. Have a nice day there 🙂

  • You did a really great summary of this book. You told me exactly what it was, how it was written, the why behind it, and the reason we the readers should buy it. A few questions, Does the book give you specific examples of habits and how to break them or is it separated more into types of habits covering a broad range of similar habits? Do they make this book in other languages?

    • For your questions:

      – Yes, the book does give a few more specific example of habit. In the beginning of the book, you would find one case study about a woman who is addicted to smoking. And by changing her smoking habit, she transformed her own life. In part 2,3, you will find more examples within some organizations. In the end of the book, the authors share his own example how he changes one of his habit.

      – “is it separated more into types of habits covering a broad range of similar habits?”-> I’m not quite understand this part. I can say it would be a “keystone habit’. In simple word, that “keystone habit” covers the rest of habits. Just like the example of the smoking woman. By changing her smoking habit, she also changes her eating habit, her excises habit, etc.  However, with the Mary case ( the college girl bits her nail in the article), that bad habit is just one small habit. Changing it, it doesn’t change her whole life. 

      – “Do they make this book in other languages?”-> Yes, it does. The author said that this book has translated into 31 languages in 2014. (I see the Chinese edition of this book on Amazon, and for other languages…I have no hint). Here is the author’s blog about 31 languages. 

      Thank you for stopping by 🙂 Happy Halloween 2018 in advance 

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