Leveraging the Power of Habit

Great interview at the blog NeuroTribes with Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Here's a taste:

Steve Silberman:  How did you become interested in habits?

Charles Duhigg:  About a decade ago, I was in Iraq. I went there because I thought it would be fun to be in a war zone. It turned out to be — not fun. I quickly discovered that one of the best ways to be in a war zone is to get to a place where people aren’t shooting at you. So I went down to a city called Kufa, about an hour south of Baghdad by helicopter. There was a major there. I found out that he had effectively stopped riots from happening in the city by influencing the habits of the crowds there. Instead of trying to tackle the job of stopping the riots in an abstract way, he banned kebab stands from the public square, and eventually the crowds just dispersed on their own. No more riots.

Silberman: That’s fascinating.

Duhigg: I thought so too. I basically had two goals when I came back from Iraq. Number one was that I wanted to learn more about the science of habits. Number two was that I wanted to lose weight. I felt powerless over my eating habits, so I figured learning about habits would be a way to do two things at once.

Silberman:  What were your most surprising discoveries about what drives habitual behavior?

Duhigg:  The first surprising thing was how malleable habits are. We’ve only really learned this in the last decade by learning about the neurology of habit formation. We’ve discovered how much habits can be changed by focusing on the three parts of what I call the habit loop: the cue, the routine, and the reward. You’re much more effective if you focus on understanding the cue and the reward. Then the problematic behavior — the routine — can be shifted much more easily.

Read the entire piece at NeuroTribes.

Posted on May 9, 2012 .