Summary of

I Can't Remember to Brush My Teeth… But I Can Run a Business


Takeaways

0.5 min

Habits are not one thing, they are three: they are a cue, a routine (the actions), and a reward. Habits are scary powerful:

One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.

If you want to create new habits, you’ll have to set up a cue-routine-reward. Conversely, if you want to break a habit, you’ll have to spend mental energy consciously fighting it. You can — and should — use this to your advantage!


Snippets

A habit isn’t a thing, it’s three things: a cue, a routine, and a reward. And it’s not three things, it’s a loop.

The routine is the practiced set of actions you take – the thing we all call “a habit.” The cue is the trigger on the gun of routine, the thing that says chop chop, brush brush. The reward is the nice thing you get at the end. Behaviorism aside, the human brain really does wire itself up to react to rewards.


Vis a vis toothbrushes, leaving my apartment is the cue. The reward is the opportunity to engage in polite society. The routine is the actual brushing itself, of which, I can assure you, I am capable.

There are other routines I use very effectively to get creative work done (funnel process, review process, mind mapping, brainstorming, outlining, planning, weighing, analyzing, researching, composting). They help me kick ass.

But because they’re not hooked to any cues, Amy only remembers to use them some of the time.


One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.

Wow.


This is how new habits are created_at: by putting together a cue, a routine, and a reward, and then cultivating a craving that drives the loop.

And: habits are a skill. (Duh, this part’s obvious.) Not only is deploying a habit a skill, but research has shown that creating habits is a skill, too. And research shows how to go about learning the skill of creating habits.

But the reason the discovery of the habit loop is so important is that it reveals a basic truth: When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit— unless you find new routines— the pattern will unfold automatically.