The Power of Habits: Keys to Change

Life is a constant journey of transformation and growth. And one of the keys to fostering this change is understanding and changing our habits.

Charles Duhigg, in his groundbreaking book “ The Power of Habit“, offers us a framework for understanding how habits work. It guides us in the process of transforming these to stimulate positive change.

In this article, I invite you to discover the essential substances 🙂

Understanding habits to initiate change

The book is based on a simple but powerful truth :

Understanding how our habits work can give us the power to change.

Charles Duhigg, an award-winning investigative journalist, gives us the tools to dissect our habits. This makes it easier to understand how they form, how they work and, above all, how we can change them.

THE Habit Cycle, a model supported by research in psychology and neuroscience, defines how habits work. It includes 3 elements: the signal, there routine and the reward.

The signal

The signal, sometimes called trigger, is the event that triggers the habit.

It could be an emotion, a situation, a place, a time of day, the presence of other people or even a previous thought.

For example, if you have the habit of checking your emails as soon as you wake up, the cue could be the sound of your alarm clock.

Cues are crucial to habit formation because they create an automatic association in our brain between the triggering event and the routine that follows. The goal when changing a habit is to keep the cue but change the associated routine.


Routine isaction that you carry out in response to the signal. This is the habit itself.

For example, in the case of the habit of checking your email in the morning, the routine is the action of picking up your phone and opening your email app.

Duhigg emphasizes that routines can be positive (like exercising regularly) or negative (like smoking a cigarette when stressed).

The idea is to understand that routines are not set in stone and can be changed, as long as the cue and reward remain the same.

The reward

The reward is what follows the routine. It's the profit that you get from the action performed.

For example, the reward for checking your email might be the feeling of staying organized or informed.

Rewards reinforce habits by creating a sort of positive feedback loop. Your brain begins to associate the cue with the pleasant reward that follows the routine, making the routine more automatic and harder to break.

The “Golden Rule” of change

The “Golden Rule” is a key principle to understand how to effectively change an existing habit. This rule states that:

If you want to change a habit, you need to keep the initial cue and the final reward, but change the routine that occurs in between.

Let's look at an example to illustrate this rule:

Let's imagine that you are in the habit of eating a sweet cookie every afternoon at the office (the routine), because you feel a little fatigue (the signal), and the cookie gives you a boost of energy which helps you get through the rest of the afternoon (the reward). However, you realize that this habit is not good for your health and you decide to change it.

According to the “Golden Rule”, you must identify the signal that triggers your habit (afternoon fatigue) and reward that you are looking for (the energy boost). Then you can try to change the routine to get the same reward.

So, rather than eating a cookie, you could try taking a ten-minute walk around the block, or drinking a green tea. These new routines could also give you an energy boost for the afternoon, while still being healthier than the original habit of eating a cookie.

Habits and the business world

Habits play a role major role in the functioning of businesses. Not only do they influence individual employee behaviors, but they also shape corporate culture, work routines, innovation processes and even the overall success of the company.

Here are some examples of how habits can influence the business world.

1. Productivity and efficiency

Business productivity is a crucial element of overall performance. It refers to:

The ability of an organization to maximize its resources to achieve its objectives.

There are many factors that can influence productivity, but work habits play a particularly important role. We can also distinguish three types of habits : individual, collective and organizational.

Individual habits

On an individual level, positive work habits can greatly improve efficiency and productivity.

For example, habits like planning the day, setting priorities, and minimizing distractions can help employees focus on their most important tasks and accomplish them effectively.

Adopting time management techniques like Pomodoro method (work for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break, and repeat) can also help employees stay focused and avoid burnout.

Additionally, habits like taking regular breaks and exercise can improve employee well-being and energy, which can in turn improve their productivity.

Collective habits

At the collective level, habits such as open communication, collaboration and regular feedback can improve coordination and the effectiveness of teamwork.

For example, a team that is used to holding regular meetings to share updates and resolve issues together can work more efficiently and avoid misunderstandings and delays.

Organizational habits

At the organizational level, habits like continuous improvement, innovation and learning can improve overall company productivity.

For example, a company that has a habit of regularly researching and adopting new technologies and ways of working can improve its efficiency and remain competitive.

Furthermore, a company that is used toencourage employees to learn and grow can benefit from a more competent and motivated workforce. This can not only improve productivity, but also the quality of the company's products or services and customer satisfaction.

In summary, by understanding and cultivating positive work habits At the individual, collective and organizational level, a company can improve its productivity and overall performance. It is important to note that changing habits may require some time and effort, but the long-term benefits are worth it.

2. Company culture

Corporate culture is the DNA of an organization. It is :

The set of shared values, beliefs, behaviors, practices, and norms that define the atmosphere of an organization and the way business is conducted.

It's a invisible but powerful appearance which can have a significant impact on every aspect of the business, from employee satisfaction to financial performance.

How Habits Shape Company Culture

Habits play a crucial role in shaping company culture. They are the repeated actions which become second nature and which are integrated into the daily functioning of the company.

For example, if managers are used to promote openness and transparency, this can encourage a culture of open communication where employees feel free to share their ideas and concerns.

Likewise, if a company is accustomed to recognize and of reward hard work and achievements, this can create a culture of motivation and appreciation.

Cultivate a positive company culture

Cultivating a positive company culture starts with understanding and defining the fundamental values of the company. These values must then be integrated into all facets of the company, from recruiting practices to performance evaluation policies.

This therefore involves establishing positive habits to support these values. For example, we can support open communication, recognizing hard work, supporting employee learning and development, and encouraging work-life balance.

Therefore, although it is frequently underestimated, corporate culture remains a fundamental element of any organizational structure. By identifying and adjusting internal routines, executives have the power to sculpt a supportive corporate culture which stimulates both employee satisfaction and the success of their organization.

3. Innovation

Innovation is one of the fundamental pillars of business success and growth in the modern era. It relates to :

The creation and application of new ideas, processes, products or services that add value to the company or its customers.

In an ever-changing business world, companies that innovate succeed in staying competitive, to respond to changing needs customers and to seize new opportunities.

The role of habits in innovation

Habits play a vital role in promoting innovation.

For example, a company that cultivates the habit ofcontinuous learning encourages its employees to acquire new knowledge and skills, which can stimulate creativity and idea generation.

Likewise, a company that encourages the habit ofexperimentation and some risk taking can foster a culture of innovation where employees feel free to propose new ideas and test new approaches.

Indeed, innovation often requires taking risks and accepting failure as an opportunity to learn and improve.

Example of innovation habits

A famous example is that of Google and its principle of 20% time.

Google encourages its employees to spend 20% of their work time on personal projects that they are passionate about, even if they are not directly related to their main job.

This has led to the creation of innovative products like gmail and Google News.

Some additional resources on this subject:

Cultivate a culture of innovation

Cultivating a culture of innovation requires commitment at all levels of the company. This may involve establishing habits of innovation, such as encouraging continuous learning, being open to new ideas, experimenting and taking risks.

Thus, innovation is a key driver of business success and growth. By understanding and cultivating the habits that drive innovation, businesses can stimulate creativity, improve their products or services, and stay competitive in a context of constant change.

4. Decision making

Decision-making is an essential process in all aspects of life, and this is especially true in the business context.

Whether it is deciding to launch a new product, to enter on a new market or choose the good candidate for a job, the decisions companies make can have a significant impact on their success.

The role of habits in decision making

Habits can have a significant impact on the decision-making process.

For example, a person or organization may be accustomed to making decisions based on intuition Or the emotion rather than a detailed analysis. On the other hand, some people or organizations may be accustomed to collecting and analyzing data before making a decision.

It is important to note that although intuition can sometimes be helpful, it is generally best to base decisions on factual analysis, especially in a commercial context. This can help reduce risk and increase the chance of success.

Habits to Improve Decision Making

Certain habits can help improve decision-making.

For example, the habit of collecting and analyzing data can help make more informed decisions. The habit of stepping back and thinking before making a decision can help avoid hasty mistakes. The habit of regularly evaluating decisions can help one learn from mistakes and improve one's decision-making skills.

Thus, decision making is a crucial process which can have a significant impact on the success of a business. By understanding and cultivating the habits that support effective decision-making, businesses can increase their chances of success.

Willpower, essential for change?

Willpower, or self-discipline, is an essential habit that can have a significant impact on our ability to achieve our goals. In reality, Charles Duhigg emphasizes that the will is in fact like a muscle which can be strengthened with practice.

This is also quite related to the theme of Responsibility 😉

The role of will in the change of habit

Self-discipline or willpower involves:

The ability to resist immediate impulses to achieve long-term goals.

It can encompass behaviors such as resisting temptation, maintaining a healthy diet, adhering to an exercise program, meeting work deadlines and more.

It is closely linked to the notion of “grit” or perseverance, which is the ability to stay focused and committed to a long-term goal despite the challenges and setbacks.

Duhigg notes that willpower plays a central role in habit change. It allows us to overcoming resistance to change and to persevere in adopting new routines. In other words, willpower can be seen as the “fuel” that powers the habit change process.

Strengthen the will

Just like a muscle, willpower can be strengthened with practice.

Duhigg suggests strategies such as set clear and achievable goals, of practice regularly self-discipline in different areas of life, and learning to effectively manage stress and fatigue, all of which can help strengthen willpower.

It is also important to note that willpower can be depleted if overexerted. This is a concept known as “will fatigue.” Therefore, it is important to take care and of recharge regularly to maintain a high level of self-discipline.

Will and success

Duhigg maintains that the will is a more accurate indicator of success than IQ. People with strong willpower are more likely to succeed in their personal and professional lives because they are better equipped to overcome challenges, stay focused on their goals, and make the sacrifices necessary to succeed.

Willpower is therefore an essential habit, which can be strengthened with practice. By cultivating it, we can improve our ability to change other habits and achieve our long-term goals.

Moral and social implications of changing habits

In his book, Charles Duhigg explores how habits shape not only our individual lives, but also society as a whole. It offers a three-dimensional approach to understanding habits: at the individual, organizational and societal level.

Each dimension has distinct moral and social implications, and an understanding of these can enrich our perspective on the power of habits.

Moral implications of changing habits

Duhigg emphasizes the importance of personal responsibility in changing habits.

For example, it tells the story of a woman who managed to quit smoking and transform her life by changing her habits. This illustrates how taking charge of your habits can be an act of autonomy and moral responsibility.

However, Duhigg also highlights the ethical dilemmas what the power of habits poses. It exposes how some companies, such as major supermarket chains and casinos, use habit science to influence consumer behavior to their advantage.

This raises questions about the ethics of manipulating the habits of others for financial gain.

Social implications of changing habits

On a societal level, Duhigg examines how habits can influence groups and communities.

He gives the example of the civil rights movement in the United States, where changing habits played a key role in mobilizing crowds and fighting for equality. This demonstrates how changing habits can have a profound social impact and can be a driver of social transformation.

Furthermore, Duhigg explores how habits can have social consequences meaningful when shared on a large scale.

For example, he explains how the American aluminum products company Alcoa drastically improved its workplace safety by focusing on changing habits. This illustrates how changing habits across an organization can have broader implications for the health and well-being of society.

Charles Duhigg therefore invites us to become aware of the moral and social implications habits. It encourages us to use this power wisely to foster positive change, while being aware of potential ethically questionable manipulations.


As we explored the fascinating world of habits, we discovered that these little daily rituals that we take for granted actually hold a immense power over our lives. From our morning routines to our productivity at work, our habits shape us in subtle and sometimes unconscious ways.

The beauty of it all is that we have the power to shape our habits in return. By understanding the structure of a habit – the cue, the routine, the reward – we can dismantle, analyze and reshape our habits so that they work in our favor. We have control, and with that control comes the responsibility to make choices that benefit us and those around us.

We have seen how changing habits can not only transform our lives, but also have wider implications for our societies. Additionally, understanding habits gives us tools to navigate a world where these same habits are often used to influence our behavior, sometimes without our knowledge.

In conclusion, the power of habits is a huge field to explore. It's a invitation to reflection, to the awareness and to the action. The exploration does not have to stop here, it has only just begun. So I encourage you to delve deeper into this exciting topic, examine your own habits and, who knows, use the power of habits to bring about positive change in your life and the lives of others.

Remember, the change starts with a single habit. What will yours be? 🙂


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Olivier MY

Olivier MY

Trained as an engineer and passionate about people, I quickly turned to the world of Agile coaching and Professional coaching. Today, I support individuals, teams and organizations towards creating value adapted to the constraints and challenges of today's world. I am committed to contributing to the professionalization of the profession, in particular through detailed feedback and inspirations highlighting the importance of an open, curious and respectful posture.


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