← Back to the listJuly 22, 20193 mins read — habits, self improvement

The Power of Habit

The Power of Habit

by Charles Duhigg

Trying something new here: most of the TIL entries so far are directly development related, some small snippets of dev knowledge I picked up here and there. All of it with the intend to keep track of my learnings primarily for me, but also for others.

With the same intention, I also want to keep track of what I learn from books that I read. I like reading, I’m doing it way less regularly than I’d like to, and I also (or because of that) struggle a bit with the amount of books that I want to read. Hopefully keeping notes on what I learned from certain books and which ones were most interesting and helpful will in return also help me and potentially others to benefit from that. Who knows 😄


Everything we do is driven by habits. To understand habits, you have to understand the 3 steps they consist of. Once you understand these and understand how to change them, you can use that knowledge to change and create habits that will help you achieve your goals.


The 3-step rule of habits

Habits generally follow 3 step loops: cue, routine, reward. The cue is the trigger of the habit, the routine is what gets triggered by the cue and the reward is what we receive as a result of the routine.

Understanding this simple principle makes it easy to decipher your existing habits, as well to change them or create new ones.

How to change a habit

To change an existing habit, the easiest way to “simply” replace one part of this 3 step loop: the routine. It’s hard to control the cues, they are usually subconcious and deeply rooted into your everyday life. This means, understand what the cue is of the habit you’re trying to change, be aware then you are being triggered and conciously, instead of “out of habit” continuing with your old routine replace it with a new one.

An important thing to remember here is the reward. Habits can only stick if you have a reward, something that makes you feel better after your routine. Make sure your new habit still produces that reward to train your brain that this new routine leads to something good.

Creating new habits

Again, the same principle aplies. Usually when you want to create a habit, you have a specific outcome in mind. This is generally the routine you want to establish, e.g. working out. It is hard to create or change cues, so look for existing cues you can utilise and build on. Then see what reward you can create for your routine, maybe you you need to change it a bit to make the habit more rewarding, especially in the beginning. But essentially it still all comes down to the 3 step loop and understanding it.

Side note: great examples of how habits can be aplied to your work

  • tooth paste manufacturers and implementing the habit of brushing your teath into peoples lifes
  • how target uses peoples habits to optimise marketing and how awareness of cues help with that
  • why no one cared to put out a fire in the London tube in 1987 and how habits were able to change the general thinking about health and safety and how people approached it

Learnings and main take aways

  • personally and for me professionally I put a lot more effort in understanding what my habits are to be able to change them
  • as team lead I also look at my team, what are their habits, what are the cues that usually trigger their behaviours and what are their goals, to then be able to help them take advantage of the understanding of the habits and change them to achieve their goals