“The Power of Habit” Book by Charles Duhigg

People have two divergent views on what a habit is; specifically, one of the most debatable questions is whether it rules human decisions or is ruled by them. Practically, the vast majority could probably give examples of both situations where the behavior was apparently automatic and those where someone rejected an old habit and formed a new one. Therefore, the two opinions may seem to have equally good reasons, and a habit-related discussion frequently turns into an experience exchange.

Everything is clearer from the scientific point of view, which Charles Duhigg presents in his nonfiction book The Power of Habit. There, he claims that the brain forms habits continuously at the subconscious level, due to which it is challenging even to notice them, needless to say change. Nevertheless, every person whose brain fulfils its functions is still able to monitor their habits and modify them providing a complete understanding of the mechanism of their emergence.

How Habits Work

The primary thing to consider is the inborn nature of habit formation. Duhigg (2014) states that “the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort,” one of which lies in performing routine actions in an automatic mode (34). This is done instinctively in order not to think permanently about everyday behaviors and, hence, accumulate more energy for exploration and development. Due to this evolutionary mechanism, literally any repeated basic action becomes a habit sooner or later. For instance, when one starts drinking a cup of coffee in the morning, it could take them a week to stop thinking about the recipe and the process of making. Having followed the hardwired habit formation algorithm, one’s brain relieved them from the necessity to be distracted by such trivia every time.

As long as the emergence of a habit is unconscious, it is difficult to trace and interfere with. Once a behavioral pattern turns into a habit, it begins to “unfold automatically” as the brain’s role in decision making diminishes, Duhigg says (36). From this time on, a habit determines people’s actions until new routines, if any, appear. Individuals virtually are in a kind of anabiosis most of the time when not doing anything special.

One would assume that automaticity of the basic behaviors eliminates the existence of free will as a concept. Duhigg himself recognizes that some habits may be strong enough to prevail over the choice making capacity, making us not completely responsible for our actions and their results (278). This sounds terrifying and suggests that people are probably less able to control themselves than they would prefer to believe.

By contrast, Duhigg insists that a habit is possible to oppose in case it leaves room for a conscious intervention, and I agree with him. He gives sleepwalking as an example of habitual, unconscious behavior that may have fatal consequences but highlights that this is a special state technically different from wakefulness. Specifically, sleep deactivates the areas of the brain responsible for cognition, simply put, analysis and decision making (Duhigg 279). Certain psychical disorders or injuries to the brain can presumably do the same, due to which the patients, similarly to sleepwalkers, lose their legal competence. Meanwhile, when those areas work properly, a person can ignore, change, or replace a habit, which I have done at least once in my life.

How to Fight Habits

I have repeatedly ascertained that a problem grows substantially easier to solve when I have an idea of how and why it emerged. This conclusion is aligned with Duhigg’s statement that figuring the structure of the so-called habit loop helps to regain control over a habit (36). More specifically, a habit should be divided into components to work on separately. There are three such components: a cue, a trigger that switches the brain into the automatic mode, a routine, a reward, or, generally, an outcome that makes the brain remember the particular habit. They form a loop, which becomes increasingly automatic in the course of time. When the loop is formed, the habit never disappears but can be deliberately changed.

As a person who has put much effort to losing weight, I am able to ignore unhealthy food, notwithstanding hunger. According to Duhigg, such ignoring is no more than an alternative routine, in other words, a new habit that “forced” the previous one “into the background” (37). The same cue, food, gradually became associated with a different routine, notably, ignoring rather than consuming, and a new habit developed over time.

Considering the non-consciousness of habits, an intriguing question is whether my binge eating that had led to excess weight was really my choice or not. One would say not as it grew into a habit beyond my will when my brain started to perceive it as a repeated action. However, the key word is “repeated,” in other words, I had done it multiple times before the habit loop formed and fastened. Furthermore, I was completely aware of the possible consequences but still continued eating the excessive amounts of sweets as well as roasted and fatty products. That was my decision, like it is initially an alcoholic’s decision to consume more frequently.

It is yet impossible to change the routines without the understanding of the cues and rewards. To stop overeating, I had to identify what exactly encouraged me to take more food and activated the loop. According to Duhigg, the cue and the reward can be intimately related, when a wish for a reward actually performs as a trigger (36). In my case, the reward was endorphin secretion stimulated by eating tasty that raised my spirits as a result. Therefore, another thing I needed to normalize my diet was an alternative source of endorphins, which I finally found in physical activity. Unless I had figured the mechanism, I would have been hardly able to overcome the bad habit.

To summarize, I generally agree with Charles Duhigg’s presentation of the nature of habits. In one concern, he describes the unconscious process of their formation that can be unopposable under specific circumstances, for instance, in sleepwalking people. Along with that, he insists that awareness of the structure normally allows changing the habit by breaking it into integrants and modifying some of those. My personal experience proves that it is possible to consciously replace one habitual routine with another. Therefore, it would not be reasonable to deny the existence of free will purely on the grounds that most basic behaviors are done automatically. Neither would I relieve addicts of the responsibility for their actions as a habit does not emerge immediately, and it was their initiative to try and repeat.

Work Cited

Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2014.

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PsychologyWriting. (2022, October 24). "The Power of Habit" Book by Charles Duhigg. Retrieved from https://psychologywriting.com/the-power-of-habit-book-by-charles-duhigg/


PsychologyWriting. (2022, October 24). "The Power of Habit" Book by Charles Duhigg. https://psychologywriting.com/the-power-of-habit-book-by-charles-duhigg/

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""The Power of Habit" Book by Charles Duhigg." PsychologyWriting, 24 Oct. 2022, psychologywriting.com/the-power-of-habit-book-by-charles-duhigg/.


PsychologyWriting. (2022) '"The Power of Habit" Book by Charles Duhigg'. 24 October.


PsychologyWriting. 2022. ""The Power of Habit" Book by Charles Duhigg." October 24, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/the-power-of-habit-book-by-charles-duhigg/.

1. PsychologyWriting. ""The Power of Habit" Book by Charles Duhigg." October 24, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/the-power-of-habit-book-by-charles-duhigg/.


PsychologyWriting. ""The Power of Habit" Book by Charles Duhigg." October 24, 2022. https://psychologywriting.com/the-power-of-habit-book-by-charles-duhigg/.