Book Review: The Power Of Habits

Posted on Thu 13 February 2020 in Book Reviews • 3 min read

Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg was one of the most useful books I have read. While it doesn't explicitly step the reader through how to change habits, it thoroughly goes through many examples of where habits have changed other people's lives, case studies if you will. By then being able to recognise the habitual changes these people had to make, this allows the reader to (maybe) identify and be able to change some of their own habits to better their own life.

Cue, Routine, Reward

A concept that is repeatedly drawn parallel to habitual behaviours in the case study examples is that of Cue, Routine, Reward.

  • Cue: Something that 'triggers' a habitual behaviour, this could be hunger, boredom or even just a bright colour.
  • Routine: The process that follows the cue.
  • Reward: The end goal of this habit to satisfy a need/desire for something

An example of this in my own life is that when I'm at work sitting at my desk tapping away at my jobs for the day, I'll finish one of my tasks for the day (I love bullet journalling to maintain these), I won't want to start the next task straight away so I'll typically go to the kitchen and fill up my drink bottle.

Here the process is as follows:

  • Cue: Finish a task at work
  • Routine: Walk to the kitchen and fill up water bottle
  • Reward: A moment to stretch my legs and get a drink

While this is a good habit that I have tried to instill myself, can also be replaced by any bad habit (eg, walk to the kitchen and eat a bag of chips)

Case Study - Alcoa

A fantastic case study that was presented in the book that resonated with me was the changing of the CEO at Alcoa. Alcoa is one of the biggest manufacturers of aluminium in the United States.

When the CEO had changed, Alcoa was a dangerous place to work with a high staff injury rate, turns out working with molten metal all day can be a dangerous activity, who would've knew.

The new CEO made it his goal that the number 1 priority of Alcoa going forward would be safety. Profits, revenue, etc were not going to be the focus of Alcoa anymore (upsetting lots of investors at the time).

By implementing changes such as employees would be required to implement a new safety procedure to get a promotion and that no task was worth doing in an unsafe manner, the CEO had instilled a habit of safety into the culture of the company.

The ripple on effect of this was that by putting a focus on one aspect of the entire operation, this amended many of the things that were halting progress within the company.

For example, instead of machinery breaking down catastrophically and needing long repair times, equipment was being regularly maintained as to keep it in safe working order and producing more material. Workers that were needing to take lots of time off were now able to keep working now that they were not falling ill to injury's or sickness from the workplace.

This lead to Alcoa producing some of its best results in history and is a great example how focusing on one element of a business can have such a ripple effect.

Michael Phelps

Early on in Michael Phelps life, a coach realized Michael's potential as an athlete in swimming. This coach through instilling habits into Michael's routine, would go on to produce one of the most athletic swimmers of all time.

By getting Michael to follow the exact same process (routine) every time before a race, this made it naturally for Michael to compete so strongly. Michael watched a video of the perfect race, every single time before a race, listened to the same pump up music through his headphones, stood up and waved to the crowd the exact same way every time such that it had became a habit to swim. Something that he didn't actively have to think about to do.


I personally absolutely loved this book and it's appreciation for that not every person works the same way. By presenting the reader with a multitude of case studies and allowing the reader to determine what might be effective in their life for themselves, this doesn't instruct the reader to learn how their habits work but rather allows them to see the world through a different lens.

You can find this book at: