Book - The Power of Habit - Notes

23 Mar 2017

The Power of Habit is the new book I am currently reading and for first few chapters it better than I expected. I value books based on how fast I can apply the knowledge to my life. Since this book is about daily habits, how the brain works and how we form new habits it is applicability is higher than other books.

Chapter 1 - The Habit Loop

  • Old habits die hard and literally they never die.
  • Old habits stay where they are inside the brain.
  • New habits form new patterns but old habits still ready to be activated.
  • When you have a habit of eating fast food at night you can change this habit with the new one but habit loop still triggers old habit inside the brain even though you stop eating fast food and replaced it drinking water instead.
  • Habits have cycle cue - routine - reward.
  • Most of our bad habits can work like domino if you can find the keystone habit and change it other will follow. The book includes a case of a woman which changes life somehow by changing keystone habit.
  • Your brain does not like your mundane daily life so it delegates or converts most of the tasks to habits and stay low profile.
  • Delegation is not applicable when you are learning or doing something the first time.
  • Even though brain stop learning new things it can still form new habits.
  • Brain delegates its task to habit when habit started and take control back when habit end with the reward.
  • We can focus on other things while we are in habit cycle because the brain is not actively working in the period. eg. Driving the car while you remember that you forgot something
  • Habit loops are fragile especially cue part. When the brain senses a little change habit loop breaks.
  • When scientists changed reward place rats had a hard time figuring out what to do. When they use cat sound instead of a click sound on cue phase could not figure out what to do.

Chapter 2 - The Craving Brain

  • Pepsodent toothpaste become so popular that it changed daily toothbrushing habits of Americans.
  • Hopkins (founder of the Pepsodent campaign) created simple cue-reward from daily life and turn it into habit
  • The real science behind the toothbrushing habit was habit created craving.
  • Hopkins rules become defacto standard on marketing (even though most of them already tried before Hopkins)
  • Febreze case is wildly interesting. It is hard to find the right cue-reward mechanism.
  • Febreze first positioned itself as a product to get rid of the bad smell (literally removing it). This is failed at first
  • Febreze repositioned itself as an after cleaning product which created another cue-reward with craving good smell after cleaning session.
  • Craving phase happen after you got the reward and sometimes it is so compelling that it emerges on cue phase too (experiment on monkeys with grape juice shows that monkeys create spikes in brain activity even on the cue phase after multiple tries).
  • Some products have pseudo ingredients inside them to trigger craving and habit loop. Toothpaste contain sulfate even though it doesn’t have to. It creates foam effect which people think that it works when foam appears along with herbal sense.
  • To learn new habits spark craving sense. If you want to run or exercise put your jogging shoes somewhere visible to remind that.

Chapter 3 - The Golden Rule of Habit Change

This chapter seems boring comparing to other chapters.

  • Habits seems easy to replace but it not easy in practice.
  • Belief is biggest factor when you wanted to change something.
  • Replacing habit with group of people helps AA meetings etc.
  • Old habits re-emerges in high stress situations but it is managable with purpose.

Chapter 4 - Keystone Habits

  • This chapter is more connected than previous one moving mainly around Alcoa case
  • Finding keystone habit is an important routine for bigger organizational changes.
  • Alcoa did that by putting safety in the first priority.
  • Changing safety habit also created a tight network of communication loop because everyone in the chain must report accidents immediately.
  • This network of communication soon turn into the first version of corporate mailing.
  • Corporate mailing and free communication lead to ideas from all sort of employees which company struggling to find a solution.
  • Phelps (swimmer) case is also covered which have a routine created by his first trainer.
  • Phelps applied his routine rigidly before each competition and prepare himself for unexpected situations (goggle case.)
  • Researchers found out that keeping a daily log of what you are eating can help people change their daily eating habits.
  • When they see so much junk food they choose to go with health choices or they can see their eating patterns on time basis.

Chapter 5 - Starbucks & The Habbit Of Success

  • This chapter revolve around the organizational approach by Starbucks to train their employees with habit loop
  • Every new employee joined Starbucks will take series of training for situations that both lead to personal and organizational success.
  • Book talk about the case of drug addict parents son Travis and how turned his life around after joining Starbucks.
  • Willpower also have a big role for habit development.
  • Willpower works like a muscle and have a finite ability. So people need to keep their willpower sharp and ready.
  • If you spent your willpower for routine daily activities you will not have enough to do what you wanted to do.
  • Books talks about series of experiments to test willpower such as cookie experiment. When part of a group given cookie and told not to eat ramen while other group told the opposite. Cookie eaters did not have a hard time resisting ramen while eating the cookie but other group had a hard time dealing with the situation.
  • Both groups were given hard to solve problem after resisting their urges but the Ramen eating group have a hard time focusing and solving problems while cookie eating group tried to solve the problem longer.
  • Starbucks took a step further and gives employees perks like free gym membership etc. but employees had a hard time finding willpower to use them
  • Employees daily routine is exhausting enough that after work it is hard to follow the routine.
  • Starbucks developed system called LATTE which employees can take action for already practiced situation like dealing with angry customer, wrong order
  • Every new employee given booklet to write those situations down and define what they will do when they face the situation again.
  • LATTE means Listen, Acknowledge, Take Action, Thank Them, Explain Situation