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

I first heard about this book referenced in a This American Life podcast while driving up the mountains last year.  I remember being blown away by a particular story about a stay-at-home mom from Iowa who slowly, overtime, developed a seriously devastating gambling addiction.  By 2006 she lost $900,000, then moved to Tennessee to live in a state where gambling is illegal, and then blew another $125,000 during a trip back to Iowa.

I was so intrigued by the way this woman, Angie Bachmann, just couldn’t stop.  Ira Glass, This American Life host, referenced The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg and I jotted down the title while thinking … I definitely want to learn more about how habit played a role in her addiction and … this sounds like a good business book for 2013!



This wasn’t my favorite book because I tend to prefer straight-to-the-point, powerful snippets instead of long-drawn out stories and this was more of the latter (surprisingly, I think, for a business book).

Here are some of my take-aways …

  • A Duke researcher found in 2006 that 40% of our actions performed each day aren’t decisions.  They’re habits.  Wow!
  • A habit is a choice that we make at first, and then stop thinking about but continue doing.  As we learn and master a task, mental activity decreases (because it’s not needed anymore).
  • Charles Duhigg explains, “Though each habit means relatively little on its own, whether we save or spend, how often we exercise, and the way we organize our thoughts and work routines have enormous impacts on our health, productivity, financial security and happiness”.
  • That’s pretty powerful, right?  So what can we do to improve our habits or get rid of our bad habits all together?  According to Duhigg, first we must understand them by finding the cues, and then define the rewards.  “The cue, in addition to triggering a routine, must also trigger a craving for the reward to come” (p. 51).
  • One of the examples in the book that I could relate to: people put on their running shoes each morning because they crave the endorphin rush they know they’ll get after the run.
  • Cue+Routine+Reward=Habit
  • Instead of quitting bad habits, it’s all about changing them and inserting new routines into your old habit loops.
  • This is so true: “Small wins fuel transformative change by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.” – p. 112
  • Got grit? The tendency to “work strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity and plateaus in progress” (p. 124)


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