The power of habit
Why we do what we do in life and business

Short summary

Learn the power of habits, why it’s so easy to do some things, and so hard to resist others. Learn how to create new habits and change old ones.


The Power of habit – why we do what we do in life and business written in 2014 by Charles Duhigg, a Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist. 

Do you know why once you hear a notification on your phone you open it right away? or why it is so hard to stop smoking or snusing, and when you finally did it, it’s so easy to fall back. 

In this book the author give an in-depth scientific look at how habits work and why we do as we do. The book is divided into three parts. The first section focuses on how habits emerge within individuals’ lives. It explores the neurology of habit formation, how to build new habits, and change old ones. The second part examines the habits of successful companies. the last part looks at the habits of societies, and how large protest groups are formed and why the last. 

What is a habit

In the ’90s, a rat was placed in a T-shaped labyrinth by scientists. On the left side of the T, a chocolate bar was placed, while the rat was placed on the other side behind a partition that opened when a loud sound was made. In the beginning, the rat’s brain worked in high gear, while it sniffed and scratched at the walls in search of the chocolate. while repeating the experiment time after time, something happened, the rat stopped smelling and sniffing around, and no wrong turns where made, the rat went through the labyrinth faster and faster, while the brain activity was greatly reduced compared with the first times in the labyrinth. The rat became familiar with the route, no thinking was needed, the route became a habit.  

The rat experiment can translate to us humans. For example the first time riding a bike! It’s pretty much impossible, so much to remember, so much to think about. You need to shift gear, know where the breaks are, remember to keep your legs moving so you get enough speed, and don’t fall over, to either right or the left side, and the first week is going to be a bit bloody. But after a while everything is going on auto, your brain can chill. Riding a bike has become a habit.

Habits, are what allows us to do a thing with difficulty the first time, but soon do it more and more easily, and finally, with sufficient practice, do it semi-mechanically, or with hardly any consciousness at all.

How does a habit work

Every habit can be broken down into a 3 step process, a cue, a routine and a reward.  First, the habit is triggered by a cue (like the sound in the rat experiment), the brain then goes into automatic mode, and conducts the routine, (like going through a mace), finally, there is a reward(eating a chocolate bar).

So, as soon as we see or feel a cue, the habit will take over and start on the routine,  when the routine is finished you will get a reward. 

Then some bad news: the brain can’t really tell the difference between a good and a bad habit, so if you, after coming home from work, tired and hungry (cue), throw your fat ass at the couch, opening a bag of chips and start playing videogames(routine), and get the satisfaction from killing monsters and eating chips(reward)  it will become a habit, a bad habit! But the good news, you can change a bad habit!

How to create a new habit or change an old one

Once a habit is established it will never really disappear, it’s like the old expression “just like riding a bike”. You will always know how to ride a bike when you first know how to do it or If you had a habit of smoking, the habit will always be in your brain, lurking and ready to be set in motion once the cue is triggered. 

To create a new habit, the first thing to do is to come up with a simple and obvious cue and second clearly define the reward. Or if you wanna change an old habit identify the cue, routine, and reward so when the cue hits, you switch out the bad routine with a new one and try to keep the reward about the same. Let’s go through an example of how to establish a training habit.

When you open your door at your apartment after work, the first thing you see is your sneakers in the middle of the hallway(cue), you put them on right away and start running(new routine), after the training session, you throw your perfectly shaped ass at the couch, drinking a fresh smoothie and start killing monsters on your PS5, totally Guilt-free(reward).


To change or create a new habit does take a lot of effort and conscious thinking at the start before it becomes a habit and you start to crave the reward once you see the sneakers in the middle of the hallway.  

Domino effect

Keystone habit

Some habit can be more important than others, some habits have the power to start a domino effect, that spills over to everything in life and transform other habits to better or worse. These habits are known as keystone habits, and by focusing on those can cause a positive (or negative) effect on your whole life.

You decide to start a habit of switching out junk food with a healthy dinner, with a good balance between protein, carbohydrates and fat, at least 100g of vegetables, and supplement with omega-3 and vitamin D (in the winter). The rippling effect of eating a healthy dinner is more energy, you lose weight, get a better self-image. Etc. Eating a healthy dinner is a keystone habit!

You get an angry e-mail from a customer at work (cue) to feel better(reward) you start doing a little cocaine(routine), it soon becomes a habit. Everyone with a little sense understands this is an extremely bad keystone habit that will have a bad rippling effect on your whole life.


Creating or changing a habit isn’t easy. But(like many things in life) if you put down an effort and decide to start a new habit or change an old one, you will be able to do it, and the hard work will pay off.  And you only need to focus on one habit, a keystone habit, to dramatically alter your life to the better.

So start putting your sneakers in the middle of the hallway or transform that junk dinner into something healthy, and see the dominoes fall one by one.