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The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in Life and Business

Cheat Sheet Fact of Life: Habits are brain’s way of saving effort. Make sure you form constructive habits. 


The Power of Habit is a book written by Charles Duhigg. In this book, the author writes about how habits are formed in individuals, in organizations and societies and how habits can make the entities better or worse.

The most interesting story in this book is how the American retail chain Target, banked on their customers’ habits. North American baby market is worth 36 billion a year and Target wanted to attract/retain the customers who were in the early phase of pregnancy. Target developed an algorithm which is based on the products that people who were pregnant bought. If any new customer brought these products frequently, the algorithm identified them to be the would-be parent. After identifying the customer base, Target would send baby coupons to the would-be parents so that they can use them on their next trip to the grocery store.

Imagine the shock of the people if they knew that their neighborhood retail store was spying on them.

A father angrily stormed into a Target store and demanded to see the Manager. He said to the Manager, ‘My daughter is in high school and you sent her coupons for maternity products’.

The Manager apologizes to the father and tells it was a mistake. The next day, the Manager makes a courtesy call to the father and apologizes again.

The father says, ‘I am sorry. Apparently there were a few household affairs which I was not aware of. My daughter is pregnant’.

After that Target used the sandwiching technique to send the coupons. They would send the customer, baby product coupons alongside wine bottle openers or dining sets coupons so that they seem random and innocuous.

No more fathers were hurt after Target changed their marketing technique.

Habits are brain’s way of saving effort. Habits are a three step process. First there is a trigger, which tells the brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. The second is the routine which is physical, mental or emotional. Finally there is a reward which helps brain to figure out that this particular routine is worth remembering.

habit routine

Let me take my example for understanding the habit loop. For some weird reason, I always have craving for food as soon as I get home from office. My hands immediately reach to the eatables in the Tupperware boxes on the dining table. It is mostly unhealthy stuff, food that is fried in oil. My cue is craving for food after a tired day at work. Then follows the routine in which I eat the unhealthiest stuff and I pack up pounds. ­­Third is the reward in which the craving for food is satisfied but it is followed by guilt.

Fortunately, habits can be modified by changing the routine in the three step process of trigger, routine and reward. I will still have the craving for food but what if I replace the stuff on my table with healthy stuff like fruits or cut vegetables? I would be choosing the fruits or veggies rather than the fried foods. Well, an inventive way to trick the brain.

This book is like a thesis but it does give interesting details about the power of habits.


The Power of Habit image from google images. Background from Photo Credit: p!o via Compfight cc

Background modified to include the picture of the book.

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This entry was posted in: Books

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I am avid reader. I am interested in reading adult fiction, non-fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, young adult and children's fiction.

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