This book summary can be accessed in audio version using the link at the bottom.
The Habit Loop
Duhigg introduces us to the habit loop, which has three steps:
• A cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use.
• A routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional.
• A reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.
The most famous work in this area was done on monkeys in a lab at the University of Cambridge. Wolfram Schultz designed an experiment that helped us understand how cues and rewards get linked together. A monkey sat in front of a computer screen, and its job was to touch a lever whenever coloured shapes appeared on the screen. If the monkey touched the lever when a shape appeared, a drop of blackberry juice would run down a tube and onto the monkey's lips, which the monkey found delicious. Whenever the monkey received the reward, a spike in his brain activity would suggest that he was experiencing happiness.
Interestingly, as the experiment went on, the brain activity in the monkey started to change - instead of showing a spike when he received the reward, it started to spike as soon as he saw the shapes on the screen. Finally, they changed the experiment to not deliver the reward when he pressed the lever. The brain pattern that showed up when this was happening was consistent with desire and frustration. The cue was creating a craving for the reward. Essentially, habits create neurological cravings that we have no control over.
This is how new habits are created: by putting together a cue, a routine, and a reward, and then cultivating a craving that drives the loop.
Changing old habits is incredibly hard. That's why we need to rely on the habit loop that is already there to change it. Quite simply, the formula for creating a new habit is to keep the old cue and deliver the old reward, but to insert a new routine into the loop. First, we need to identify the cues that trigger our old habits. Then, we need to identify the rewards that we get after the routine.
Now that we know exactly how habits work and how they eventually turn into cravings, it's time to explore the idea that some habits matter more than others: Keystone habits.
They are the ones that, have a domino effect on the rest of your life and naturally create other good habits. For instance, people who create the habit of exercising start eating better and become more productive at work. They smoke less and are more patient with people in their lives. They use their credit cards less frequently and feel less stressed. Clearly, exercise is a keystone habit for many people.
In another study, the National Institutes of Health published a new approach to weight loss. They gathered together a group of sixteen hundred obese people and asked them to write down everything they ate at least one day a week. At first, it was hard. Eventually, it became a habit for them, and they started looking at their journals and seeing patterns they hadn't expected. Some people noticed they snacked mindlessly mid-morning, and so started to keep a piece of fruit on their desk. Other people started to plan their meals in the journal and ate more healthy options when dinner time rolled around. Food journals, it turns out, was a keystone habit for many other good habits. Six months into the study, the people who kept daily food records had lost twice as much weight as everyone else.
Finding a keystone habit in your life is all about finding small wins. Small wins help other habits flourish by creating new structures, and creating cultures where change becomes contagious.
Here's an example of how to deal with an unhappy customer according to Starbucks, which they call the LATTE method:
• Listen to the customer
• Acknowledge the complaint
• Take action by solving the problem
• Thank the customer
• Explain why the problem occurred
Habits are powerful. They can be a force for good in your life if you understand them, and know exactly what to do in order to create new ones, and turn bad ones into good ones.
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