The Power of Habits, Why We Do What We Do by Charles Duhigg

My interest in habits continues and so I went back to the book that started it all. The Power of Habits reminded me that I had the power to make my life infinitely easier by building around good habits.


A young woman walks into a laboratory. Over the past two years, she has transformed almost every aspect of her life. She has quit smoking, run a marathon, and been promoted at work. The patterns inside her brain, neurologists discover, have fundamentally changed.

Marketers at Procter & Gamble study videos of people making their beds. They are desperately trying to figure out how to sell a new product called Febreze, on track to be one of the biggest flops in company history. Suddenly, one of them detects a nearly imperceptible pattern—and with a slight shift in advertising, Febreze goes on to earn a billion dollars a year.

An untested CEO takes over one of the largest companies in America. His first order of business is attacking a single pattern among his employees—how they approach worker safety—and soon the firm, Alcoa, becomes the top performer in the Dow Jones.

What do all these people have in common? They achieved success by focusing on the patterns that shape every aspect of our lives. 

They succeeded by transforming habits.

In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation. 

Along the way we learn why some people and companies struggle to change, despite years of trying, while others seem to remake themselves overnight. We visit laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work and where, exactly, they reside in our brains. We discover how the right habits were crucial to the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. We go inside Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, NFL locker rooms, and the nation’s largest hospitals and see how implementing so-called keystone habits can earn billions and mean the difference between failure and success, life and death.

At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. 

Habits aren’t destiny. As Charles Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives. from Goodreads.

A bright yellow cod er features three people in a hamster wheel, one running, one struggling and one falling off the wheel.


Oh boy do I love the idea of habits. The notion that you can train your brain to do things without thinking about it that are beneficial is mind boggling. Of course, the flip side of habits is that we can unknowingly gain bad habits that must be broken through time. I first encountered habits with the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. In that book, Clear helps you to understand how to build habits that will improve your life by looking at making things 1% better everyday. The Power of Habits predates Clear’s work and is the why of habits. Why do we do what we do and what control do we have?

Charles Duhigg’s book relies heavily on connecting anecdotal stories to arguments on why certain habits are malleable, fundamental, important and lasting. Many other reviews have complained about this facet of the book but, since I already read Atomic Habits, I was able to enjoy them for what they are: a jumping off point in an explanation. Granted, some of the stories and the habit connections are easy to see and others are a reach.

Still, I have walked away from this book with a more firm grasp on the why of habits – something that wasn’t completely clear to me from Atomic Habits. Habits can exist even when the brain is damaged. In fact, habits exist when we are asleep which is why sleepwalkers behave the way they do. From keystone habits that build empires, to the small wins needed to convince us to continue working on a skill, The Power of Habits has me contemplating why I do all kinds of things in my daily life.

For example, why am I a chronic snooze button pusher? I hate this about myself and have wanted to change for a long time. I have tried many things including putting my alarm clock across the room, setting my alarm so late in the morning that I would have to rush around and, for a while, I had my coffee pot in my bedroom with an auto brew setting. Do you all know how hard it is to fall asleep with coffee next to your bed?? None of it worked for very long.

But, in looking at the why of this habit I needed to acknowledge that I love getting up early but I hate bustling around in the morning. Once I get out of bed I feel obligated to run through my morning checklist: workout, eat, shower, dressed and out the door (or back to my home office). Since I wanted to be slightly lazy in the morning, I saw snoozing as an excuse to stay in bed. And, after a while, the snooze button became a signal to my brain that I was going to get a little more sleep. The habit loop had formed!

To break the snoozing habit I set my alarm and made a rule that I must get out of bed (both feet on the floor!) but then I get a cup of coffee and sit and read in my pajamas. This fulfills the craving that I have to be up early and move slowly without associating the sound of my alarm with more sleep. I’m not sure I have successfully broken the habit quite yet but I did feel happy when my alarm went off all this week and, Friday, I actually work up ten minutes before my alarm!

And this is the best thing about both The Power of Habits and Atomic Habits. The authors’ clear message is that we are in control of our lives. If you, like me, found yourself acquiring numerous new unwanted habits during quarantine and are looking for guidance on how to change that, these book are a great place to start!

Tell me, please! Do you have any habits you have broken? Brag away in the comments!


7 thoughts on “The Power of Habits, Why We Do What We Do by Charles Duhigg

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  1. This is a great review! I agree with what you said about some of the chapters not having as direct of a connection as others – the stories were interesting though!
    I had issues with the snooze button too. But instead I downloaded the Alarmy app and now to turn off the alarm I have to scan the barcode on my toothpaste, which requires me to go the length of the house 😅

    Liked by 1 person

    1. WHOA. That app is some serious dedication! I love it! I am still doing pretty well with the snooze – I have finally become honest about when I am actually going to get up in the morning as well which is new for me. Thanks for popping by here!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I read the book last spring as I was examining how by bad habits had once been getting the better of me. It was a great help and I have worked to replace bad with good in the habit loop. As for the snooze button, I tell myself I want to get up early just before I go to bed and am specific about it. This seems to help. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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