Patton's Picks from the PMA Library: The Power of Habit

September 2020

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

If you're looking for book recommendations in the productivity and professional development genre, Patton offers a weekly summary of some of the essential and emerging titles from the PMA Library. 


Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit gives readers instructions for conducting an introspective analysis to determine how and why you repeat certain behaviors, and learn how to reimagine this cycle of behaviors for the better. 

Duhigg's research into neuroscience and behavioral change dives deep into the brain's reward cycles which cement habits into our daily lives, and explains how you can change your habits for the better, permanently. 

1. Identify the routine

2. Experiment with rewards 

3. Isolate the cue 


Three takeaways:

  1. Predetermine habits. Creating new routines can be tough, but the implementation of habits which set you up for success create overall progress. Identifying a "keystone habit," or one habit which positively triggers the others (like the use of an exercise journal) can impact other daily decisions and result in long term improvement. 

  2. Resist temptation. Dealing with the stressors of bad habits is critical to success. Because willpower can run out, strategically replacing bad habits must be done with intention but not exhaustion. The brain craves rewards even before they arrive, so resisting temptation requires identifying the exact contexts which influence habits. You should pay attention to your location, the time, your emotional state, those around you, and the preceding actions to see where you can make changes. 

  3. Community pressure. As social beings, humans often concede to the expectations of others, acting accordingly with the normal behavior of one's community. Communal expectations can be a powerful force in determining one's unhealthy or healthy habits; be responsible for holding oneself accountable versus falling victim to the choices of the collective. Cultivate an awareness of the contexts which surround you, and seek communities which will influence you for the better. Perhaps surprisingly, people with whom you share weak ties tend to pressure you to behave in certain ways, as they are quicker to make drastic judgements than someone you know very well. 

Duhigg teaches that by identifying and altering the cue, the routine, and the reward involved in your habits, you can provide for a healthier, more in-control way of life. The science of habit formation has never been more critical than today, when the maximization of time is critical to success. 


Charles Duhigg is a Pulitzer-prize winning American journalist and non-fiction author. He was a reporter for The New York Times and is the author of two books on habits and productivity, titled The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business and Smarter Faster Better.