The Habit Loop | Book Review : The Power of Habit

3 min readJun 17, 2018


The Habit Loop

I just finished reading the book “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. This post is an excerpt from the book. I found this book revolving primarily around the concept of “Habit Loop”. What exactly is habit loop and why should we care to know it? It seems like Habit is something which controls our daily lives, we don’t normally recognize the extent of it. Habit Loop is a representation of how Habit works. Every habit either constructive, destructive or other-sorts all seems to follow this “Habit Loop”. The loop starts with a Cue or a trigger. When our brain recognizes the trigger, it switches to auto-pilot mode and starts performing the routine tasks. The same tasks, which we perform every-time we are in such a scenario. Why? Performing the routine, gives us some kind of a satisfaction or reward. We might have come across this scenario in our everyday lives, We are in our home, sitting bored. Something tells us to get to the fridge and check for some snack. We start munching the snack, and get back to normal. I do this all the time. This is also an Habit. ‘Getting Bored’ is the Cue/trigger here. Getting up, moving towards the fridge, checking out for some snack is the Routine. We do this without giving much of a task, as we would have performed this task hundreds of times. The satisfaction which we feel after we have some snack is the reward. This is an example for Habit Loop.

Learning Habit Loop can help us understand this answer to Million dollar question which several organizations and researchers have been searching for months, if not years. Can we forget our old Habits to create new ones? Short is, we cannot forget old Habits. Habits are so tightly coupled with our brain, so that it cannot be forgotten, period. But a Habit can be replaced with another Habit. The book suggests one such technique for Habit Replacement-”The Golden Rule of Habit Change”. The Golden Rule suggests that, to change a Habit — Don’t try to change the Cue or the reward, but change the routine. Our Habit loop activates when it senses or recognizes a Cue and starts performing the routine. This state is where we attack to replace an Habit. We Replace the routine with another routine, which will yield the same reward or sense of satisfaction to us. Say a person wants to change the habit of smoking, and the reward for him is the ‘sense of nicotine inside his system’. When the cue hits , his brain suggests him to pickup a cigarette —What he can do is replace the cigarette with coffee. Coffee can provide similar effects to Nicotine in the brain, so the reward is intact here.

Habit Replacement

The picture above is self-explanatory. Habits take time to change, it cannot be replaced instantly. It is not easy to change something which has become a part of us, without we even recognizing it. But it’s worth the time to wait. Understanding the Cues, Routines and Rewards of our Habits is like a compass to a navigator.

This book — ‘The Power of Habit’ contains several case studies and research content, and explains how Habits affect the organization and societies, and how it can be used for better outcomes. But I felt, the book was re-emphasizing the Habit Loop very frequently, making it a bit of boring at some places. Efforts put into making this book is clearly visible, from the number of case-studies and references used to explain the core idea. Overall a good read, I would rate this book 3.75/5.