The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business – Charles Duhigg

The Power Of Habit

Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often.

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The key, he said, was that he had “learned the right human psychology.” That psychology was grounded in two basic rules: First, find a simple and obvious cue. Second, clearly define the rewards.

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People might be skeptical about their ability to change if they’re by themselves, but a group will convince them to suspend disbelief. A community creates belief.

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He started to believe he wasn’t shy, and then, eventually, he wasn’t anymore.

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The evidence is clear: If you want to change a habit, you must find an alternative routine, and your odds of success go up dramatically when you commit to changing as part of a group. Belief is essential, and it grows out of a communal experience, even if that community is only as large as two people.

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Keystone habits say that success doesn’t depend on getting every single thing right, but instead relies on identifying a few key priorities and fashioning them into powerful levers.

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Willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things.

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This is how willpower becomes a habit: by choosing a certain behavior ahead of time, and then following that routine when an inflection point arrives.

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For instance, at Deloitte Consulting, the largest tax and financial services company in the world, employees are trained in a curriculum named “Moments That Matter,” which focuses on dealing with inflection points such as when a client complains about fees, when a colleague is fired, or when a Deloitte consultant has made a mistake. For each of those moments, there are preprogrammed routines—Get Curious, Say What No One Else Will, Apply the 5/5/5 Rule—that guide employees in how they should respond

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And I really, genuinely believe that if you tell people that they have what it takes to succeed, they’ll prove you right.

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Simply giving employees a sense of agency—a feeling that they are in control, that they have genuine decision-making authority—can radically increase how much energy and focus they bring to their jobs.

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it may seem like most organizations make rational choices based on deliberate decision making, but that’s not really how companies operate at all. Instead, firms are guided by long-held organizational habits, patterns that often emerge from thousands of employees’ independent decisions.

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Companies aren’t big happy families where everyone plays together nicely. Rather, most workplaces are made up of fiefdoms where executives compete for power and credit, often in hidden skirmishes that make their own performances appear superior and their rivals’ seem worse. Divisions compete for resources and sabotage each other to steal glory. Bosses pit their subordinates against one another so that no one can mount a coup. Companies aren’t families. They’re battlefields in a civil war. Yet despite this capacity for internecine warfare, most companies roll along relatively peacefully, year after year, because they have routines—habits—that create truces that allow everyone to set aside their rivalries long enough to get a day’s work done.

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Truces are so important that new fashion labels usually succeed only if they are headed by people who left other fashion companies on good terms.

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Sometimes, one priority—or one department or one person or one goal—needs to overshadow everything else, though it might be unpopular or threaten the balance of power that keeps trains running on time. Sometimes, a truce can create dangers that outweigh any peace.

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Crises are so valuable, in fact, that sometimes it’s worth stirring up a sense of looming catastrophe rather than letting it die down.

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A company with dysfunctional habits can’t turn around simply because a leader orders it. Rather, wise executives seek out moments of crisis—or create the perception of crisis—and cultivate the sense that something must change, until everyone is finally ready to overhaul the patterns they live with each day.

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Whether selling a new song, a new food, or a new crib, the lesson is the same: If you dress a new something in old habits, it’s easier for the public to accept it.

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Studies show that people have no problem ignoring strangers’ injuries, but when a friend is insulted, our sense of outrage is enough to overcome the inertia that usually makes protests hard to organize.

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No one has enough friends to change the world. Which is why the second aspect of the social habits of movements is so important. The Montgomery bus boycott became a society-wide action because the sense of obligation that held the black community together was activated soon after Parks’s friends started spreading the word.

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To pathological gamblers, near misses looked like wins. Their brains reacted almost the same way. But to a nonpathological gambler, a near miss was like a loss. People without a gambling problem were better at recognizing that a near miss means you still lose.

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“Some thinkers,” Aristotle wrote in Nicomachean Ethics, “hold that it is by nature that people become good, others that it is by habit, and others that it is by instruction.” For Aristotle, habits reigned supreme. The behaviors that occur unthinkingly are the evidence of our truest selves, he said. So “just as a piece of land has to be prepared beforehand if it is to nourish the seed, so the mind of the pupil has to be prepared in its habits if it is to enjoy and dislike the right things.”

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However, to modify a habit, you must decide to change it. You must consciously accept the hard work of identifying the cues and rewards that drive the habits’ routines, and find alternatives. You must know you have control and be self-conscious enough to use it—

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