The Power of Habit

by

Charles Duhigg

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Power of Habit can help.

Routine Term Analysis

In the habit loop, a routine is the habit itself—or the automatic series of actions that someone takes in response to the cue. The routine then leads to a reward. For instance, smokers learn to perform a specific routine—smoking—in response to stress.

Routine Quotes in The Power of Habit

The The Power of Habit quotes below are all either spoken by Routine or refer to Routine. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of The Power of Habit published in 2014.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often. This effort-saving instinct is a huge advantage. An efficient brain requires less room, which makes for a smaller head, which makes childbirth easier and therefore causes fewer infant and mother deaths. An efficient brain also allows us to stop thinking constantly about basic behaviors, such as walking and choosing what to eat, so we can devote mental energy to inventing spears, irrigation systems, and, eventually, airplanes and video games.

Related Characters: Charles Duhigg (speaker)
Page Number: 17-18
Explanation and Analysis:

Over time, this loop—cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward—becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation and craving emerges. Eventually, whether in a chilly MIT laboratory or your driveway, a habit is born.

Related Characters: Charles Duhigg (speaker)
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

Each change was designed to appeal to a specific, daily cue: Cleaning a room. Making a bed. Vacuuming a rug. In each one, Febreze was positioned as the reward: the nice smell that occurs at the end of a cleaning routine. Most important, each ad was calibrated to elicit a craving: that things will smell as nice as they look when the cleaning ritual is done. The irony is that a product manufactured to destroy odors was transformed into the opposite. Instead of eliminating scents on dirty fabrics, it became an air freshener used as the finishing touch, once things are already clean.

Related Characters: Charles Duhigg (speaker), Drake Stimson
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 3 Quotes

His coaching strategy embodied an axiom, a Golden Rule of habit change that study after study has shown is among the most powerful tools for creating change. Dungy recognized that you can never truly extinguish bad habits.
Rather, to change a habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.
That’s the rule: If you use the same cue, and provide the same reward, you can shift the routine and change the habit. Almost any behavior can be transformed if the cue and reward stay the same.

Related Characters: Charles Duhigg (speaker), Tony Dungy
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

Notice how closely this study hews to the Golden Rule of habit change: Even when alcoholics’ brains were changed through surgery, it wasn’t enough. The old cues and cravings for rewards were still there, waiting to pounce. The alcoholics only permanently changed once they learned new routines that drew on the old triggers and provided a familiar relief.

Related Characters: Charles Duhigg (speaker)
Related Symbols: Brain Scans and Studies
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

Often, we don’t really understand the cravings driving our behaviors until we look for them.

Related Characters: Charles Duhigg (speaker)
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

How do habits change?
There is, unfortunately, no specific set of steps guaranteed to work for every person. We know that a habit cannot be eradicated—it must, instead, be replaced. And we know that habits are most malleable when the Golden Rule of habit change is applied: If we keep the same cue and the same reward, a new routine can be inserted.
But that’s not enough. For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible. And most often, that belief only emerges with the help of a group.

Related Characters: Charles Duhigg (speaker)
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

What most people didn’t realize, however, was that O’Neill’s plan for getting to zero injuries entailed the most radical realignment in Alcoa’s history. The key to protecting Alcoa employees, O’Neill believed, was understanding why injuries happened in the first place. And to understand why injuries happened, you had to study how the manufacturing process was going wrong. To understand how things were going wrong, you had to bring in people who could educate workers about quality control and the most efficient work processes, so that it would be easier to do everything right, since correct work is also safer work.
In other words, to protect workers, Alcoa needed to become the best, most streamlined aluminum company on earth.

Related Characters: Charles Duhigg (speaker), Paul O'Neill
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

What employees really needed were clear instructions about how to deal with inflection points—something similar to the Scottish patients’ booklets: a routine for employees to follow when their willpower muscles went limp. So the company developed new training materials that spelled out routines for employees to use when they hit rough patches. The manuals taught workers how to respond to specific cues, such as a screaming customer or a long line at a cash register. Managers drilled employees, role-playing with them until the responses became automatic. The company identified specific rewards—a grateful customer, praise from a manager—that employees could look to as evidence of a job well done.
Starbucks taught their employees how to handle moments of adversity by giving them willpower habit loops.

Related Characters: Charles Duhigg (speaker)
Page Number: 145
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

Every habit, no matter its complexity, is malleable. The most addicted alcoholics can become sober. The most dysfunctional companies can transform themselves. A high school dropout can become a successful manager.
However, to modify a habit, you must decide to change it. You must consciously accept the hard work of identifying the cues and rewards that drive the habits’ routines, and find alternatives. You must know you have control and be self-conscious enough to use it—and every chapter in this book is devoted to illustrating a different aspect of why that control is real.

Related Characters: Charles Duhigg (speaker), Angie Bachmann , Brian Thomas
Page Number: 270
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Power of Habit LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Power of Habit PDF

Routine Term Timeline in The Power of Habit

The timeline below shows where the term Routine appears in The Power of Habit. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue: The Habit Cure
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
Social Habits and Cultural Influence Theme Icon
The Moral Consequences of Habits Theme Icon
...the U.S. military is essentially just a huge habit-formation machine. It depends on teaching soldiers routines for how to think, act, shoot, and follow orders. In Iraq, the U.S. military also... (full context)
Chapter 1: The Habit Loop: How Habits Work
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
...to navigate the maze through chunking, or “convert[ing] a sequence of actions into an automatic routine.” This is the same process that people use to develop habits, including complex ones like... (full context)
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
...that can tell it which habit to use. Then, the brain powers down during the routine. Finally, at the end of the routine, the brain powers back up to evaluate what... (full context)
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
Because the brain diverts its energy elsewhere during a routine, people tend to repeat the same routines automatically—unless they manage to deliberately replace those routines... (full context)
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
The Moral Consequences of Habits Theme Icon
...around the world have started to study habits. Habits can involve all sorts of cues, routines, and rewards. They are “powerful, but delicate”—people can build and alter them either consciously or... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Craving Brain: How to Create New Habits
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
Social Habits and Cultural Influence Theme Icon
...teeth and feel the dirty film—which Pepsodent would remove. The cue was the film, the routine was tooth-brushing, and the reward was a cleaner, more beautiful smile. (full context)
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
...looks happy after cleaning. They decided that Febreze should be the last part in a routine, a reward promising that “things will smell as nice as they look” after cleaning. Surely... (full context)
Chapter 3: The Golden Rule of Habit Change: Why Transformation Occurs
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
Social Habits and Cultural Influence Theme Icon
...habit change,” which advocates for keeping the cue and reward the same while changing the routine. After Dungy got his job at the Buccaneers, he quickly turned the team into one... (full context)
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
...cues and rewards that drive them to drink and then replace drinking with a different routine. AA members have to make a list of their triggers, admit their errors to others,... (full context)
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
...tool for coping with stress, but they soon learned to switch drinking out for different routines like AA meetings and therapy. Again, new routines were key to changing habits. (full context)
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
...can be very simple—it’s just about identifying cues and rewards and then switching out the routine. This can work for any sort of habit, ranging from snacking to smoking. (full context)
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
...cues they were looking for at the beginning of every play and then changed their routines. For instance, instead of looking at all of the opposing players and trying to choose... (full context)
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
...The first is the Golden Rule: use the same cue and reward but change the routine. The second is that for new habits to stick, people have to believe they can... (full context)
Chapter 4: Keystone Habits, or the Ballad of Paul O’Neill: Which Habits Matter Most
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
Social Habits and Cultural Influence Theme Icon
...eventually became deputy director. He realized that lots of government spending was based on institutional routines rather than deliberate decisions. For instance, cities kept building new hospitals they didn’t need because... (full context)
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
During the Beijing Olympics, Michael Phelps jumped into his routine as soon as he woke up. He ate breakfast, stretched for a half hour, warmed... (full context)
Chapter 5: Starbucks and the Habit of Success: When Willpower Becomes Automatic
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
Social Habits and Cultural Influence Theme Icon
...stressful “inflection points.” The company taught employees to deal with these situations by developing automatic routines for them. In training, they learn routines like “LATTE” (which means listen, acknowledge, take action,... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Power of a Crisis: How Leaders Create Habits Through Accident and Design
Social Habits and Cultural Influence Theme Icon
...professors Richard Nelson and Sidney Winter argued that organizations’ behavior is really controlled by institutional routines, not rational choices. These routines help organizations perform consistently over time. They also enable rival... (full context)
Habits, Human Behavior, and Success Theme Icon
Social Habits and Cultural Influence Theme Icon
...done. For instance, highly creative fashion designers can’t succeed unless they develop the right logistical routines. To do this, they usually have to work at other fashion companies and build truces... (full context)
Chapter 9: The Neurology of Free Will: Are We Responsible for Our Habits?
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
The Moral Consequences of Habits Theme Icon
...are powerful and deeply rooted, but also that they’re not destiny. If people understand the cue-routine-reward loop behind their habits, they can decide to change them. This is why Angie Bachmann... (full context)
Afterword: Some Things Learned About Weight Loss, Smoking, Procrastination, and Teaching
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
...pounds by recognizing that boredom and stress cued him to overeat. He then built new routines like weighing himself every morning and going on walks every day. He still occasionally eats... (full context)
Habit Change and Personal Growth  Theme Icon
...and relapse into their bad habits several times before they can really understand their cues, routines, and rewards. (full context)