Book Summary: The Power of Habits

This is the beginning of a series of new posts summarizing the books I read over the summer(2014), so far including, “The Power of Habits”, “Brain Rules”, “Will Power Instinct”, “Lean Start Up” and “The Innovator’s Dilemma”. I have also read a few fictions over the break, including “Age of Miracles”, “Red Shirts”, “The Giver”. But I will not be writing summaries for the fictions as I will only use the summaries to help me remember the information in the non-fiction books.

First of all, it is a great book, especially the first half.

  •  The purpose of habits.
    • We rely on habits to make a large number of decisions in our daily lives. Research has shown about 40% of our behaviors are driven by our habits.
    • Habits help our brain focus on more important things by avoiding energy spending on common things.
  • The structure of habits.
    • Habit works in a loop, cue->routine->reward->cue.
    • The cue and reward becomes intertwined when a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges.
  • The creation of new habits.
    • Create the cravings first and it will lead to cues and rewards.
    • This mechanism is used frequently in the business world to sell products.
  • Habits can not be easily removed but can be changed (The golden rule of habit change).
    • It is very difficult or even impossible to extinguish old habits.
    • It is possible to change old habits by changing the routine, while maintaining the same cue and rewards.
    • The golden rule is well understood by organizations including, sports teams, AA.
    • Sometimes, it takes group work, belief and faith to truly change some older habits.
  • Habits are not of equal importance.
    • Keystone habits can cultivate other habits and make good habits contagious.
    • It is tricky to find the keystone habits.
    • One small win leads to another, eventually leading to a large win. In the same way, small changes in keystone habits can result in changes in more habits.
  • Habits can be managed with careful observation.
    • Habits can be created to strength will power.
    • Imagine possible points of failure can help us focus on the task and deviate less from our plan.
  • Habits are more easily created during times of crisis.
    • Leaders can take advantage of crisis to form important habits.
  • Habits can also be changed to predict cutovers’ behavior and bring about social changes.
  • Specific steps to change/create habits.
    • Step1: Identify the routine that you are trying to change (buying cookies during the afternoon).
    • Step2: Experiment the rewards (talking with people).
    • Step3: Isolate the cue (time, emotional state, etc).
    • Step4: Make a plan and change the routine but maintaining the old cues and rewards.


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