Power of habits book summary

Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit details the nature of habits and how to break them – or learn to use them to your advantage. The book weaves research and data into an engaging narrative, creating a very readable yet very informative volume.

One particularly interesting concept the book addresses is the idea of “keystone habit,” or habits upon which other habits rely. In the Prologue, the author offers a strong example of a keystone habit by citing a woman, Lisa, who solved her debt, obesity, and unemployment problems all by quitting smoking. She replaced smoking with running and that change caused her to make other changes that had a ripple effect in her life. Smoking was the “keystone habit” in her case.

The book has chapters that explain how and why habits form, how you can form new habits, how you can replace olds habits, keystone habits, how willpower shapes habits, how habits can form both by accident and by design, how companies use habits to sell their products, the relationship between social movements and habits, and the way that free will factors into habits.

One of the most useful portions of the book – the portion with the most obvious implications for daily life – is the first appendix, entitled “A Reader’s Guide to Using These Ideas.” This section explains how to isolate the cue – the cue that prompts you to engage in the habit you are trying to change – and identify the routine. If your habit is unhealthy eating, then your cue might be a certain time of day when you tend to want a snack. The problematic routine may be a trip to the convenient store or the nearest vending machine. Duhigg suggests finding a different reward, such as socializing or taking a walk. Then, Duhigg says to develop a plan to implement the new routine and reward. In this example, the plan would be to spend 10 minutes socializing or taking a walk around the time that you find yourself wanting a quick snack every day.

The Power of Habits has gotten some great accolades and reviews. It’s been a New York Times Bestseller, a Washington Post Bestseller, and a Los Angeles Times Bestseller. It was named one of the best books of the year by The Wall Street Journal. Various reviews called it a “first-rate book,” “absolutely fascinating,” and “a flat-out good read.” This book can be incredibly valuable whether or not you actually have bad habits you are trying to break — it’s also a great way to learn how to use others’ habits to your advantage.