Category Archives: Terms

Habit Loop


There are three parts to a habit loop: 1) Cue, 2) Routine, and 3) Reward.

 1. The Cue indicates that there’s an opportunity to engage in a useful Routine that will end in Reward.

2. The Routine is the subject’s learned response to the Cue. It is typically an action or set of actions.

3. The Reward determines whether the Cue is worth remembering in the future.

For a habit to be created, it must have a distinct Cues and Rewards. The Cue is simply a signal that leads the subject to beneficial outcomes amidst the noise of day-to-day life. If the subject does not receive a Reward from executing the Routine, the reason to engage in the Routine disappears. And although the Routine will likely be remembered, the Cue will disappear back into the noise. Therefore, Habit Loops must have a Cue that the subject notices and a Reward that the subject rates as desirable (or at least a Reward that its basal ganglia or dorsal medial habenula finds desirable).


The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg


A chunk is information united through meaning. It allows an individual to more efficiently synthesize large blocks of information and gain an intuitive understanding of large sets of data. This intuitive understanding of a large set of data is frequently called expertise.
How to Form a Chunk

1. Find a block of information you have to ‘chunk’

2. Break apart the block of information into pieces for you to process

3. Search for uniting first principles amongst pieces of information’

-First principles are the meaning underneath the greater whole

4. Connect pieces of information in a way that makes sense within the context of the first principles

5. Conduct focus learning

-Alternate between the pieces of information and the first principles uniting the pieces of information

6.Practice until the information is intuitively understood


Cue Sensitivity


Enables a habit to be passively adopted. Humans can passively acquire habits without any effort for the better or for the worse. It happens because our brain is ‘sensitive’ to cues and is constantly looking for chances to create habits. Habits provide an advantage by allowing humans to respond instinctually to their environments thus creating relatively quick responses with a minimal amount of effort. Cues serve as the data that initiates these automated human reactions; they are the context against which automaticity can be acquired.

The brain makes use of all information available to it when forming habits. Therefore, almost anything a human can perceive can become a cue, whether that be a sound, an image, or a smell. It is the utility of the pattern of the perceptions that matters more than the perceptions themselves.

“Possible to learn and make unconscious choices without remembering anything about the lesson or decision making. Eugene showed that habits, as much as memory and reason, are the root for how we behave” (25, Power of Habit)

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Small Wins


An positive outcome that increases the likelihood of another positive outcome. They do not typically happen in a predictable or linear fashion but they are essential for progress nonetheless. A small win can be a promoter of momentum and / or a building block of a larger achievement.


” ‘Small wins do not combine in a neat linear, serial form, with each step being a demonstrable step closer to a determined ‘goal’, ‘ wrote Karl Weick, a prominent organizational psychologist. ‘More common is the circumstance where small wins are scattered…like miniature experiments that test implicit theories about resistance and opportunity and uncover both resources and barriers that were invisible before the situation was stirred up’ ” (113)


The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg



A learned behavior that has become automatic. A habit forms when a subject begins to associate a particular behavior with an outcome that the subject desires. Because the outcome is rewarding, the subject will begin to repeat the behavior until it becomes automatic.

Associated Terms

Habits are learned as the result of a habit loop.

The process of a subject deliberately repeating behavior in order to encourage the brain to accept it as a habit is called chunking.

Evolutionary Explanation of Existence

Habits exist due to the evolutionary advantage they enabled. Complex thinking, which takes place outer layers of the brain, requires a greater amount of energy and attention than habitual routine. Therefore, when a subject has repeatedly engaged in behavior that has proven to be rewarding, the brain essentially ‘automates’ the behavior in order to cut energy and attention consumption while ensuring that the desirable outcome continues to occur.


The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg



Keystone Habit

Quick Summary

A habit that sets off a chain reaction leading to the formation of multiple other good habits. It can be considered a foundational habit, one whose successful adoption leads to the successful adoption of many other positive habits. It is the initiator of a pattern of self-determined growth.


In Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg described Alcoa CEO Paul O’Neill’s belief about keystone Habits: “O’Neill believed that some habits have the power to start a chain reaction, changing other habits as they move through an organization. Some habits, in other words, matter more than others in remaking businesses and lives. These are ‘keystone habits’ and they can influence how people work, eat, play, live, spend, and communicate”

Duhigg continues:”Keystone habits start a process that, over time, transforms everything. Keystone habits say that success doesn’t depend on getting every single thing right, but instead relies on identifying a few priorities and fashioning them through powerful levers…The habit habits that matter most are the ones, when they start to shift, dislodge and remake other patterns” (100)