Safe Habits & The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg


The best way to introduce innovation to your safety culture is to learn from people outside of your profession.  When I read, I like to record quotes from the books that I study.  One of the top five books I have read in the past 12 months is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  It is not a “safety” book BUT it has great examples that safety professionals can use to build a safety culture with SAFE HABITS.  Great safety cultures cannot exist without SAFE HABITS.



1 – xvi One paper published by Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40% of the actions people perform each day weren’t actually decisions, but habits.

17 Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.

20 When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in the decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts to other task. So unless you deliberately fight a habit – unless you find a new routines – the pattern will unfold automatically.

33 He created a craving. And that craving, it turns out, is what makes cues and rewards work. The cravings power the habit loop.

33 Throughout his career, one of Claude Hopkins signature tactics was to find simple triggers to convince consumers to use his products everyday.

36 First find a simple and obvious cue.  Second, clearly define the rewards.

47 This explains why habits are so powerful: they create neurological cravings.

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

58 Anyone can use this basic formula to create habits of her or his own. Want to exercise more? Choose a cue, such as going to the gym as soon as you wake up, and a reward, such as a smoothie after each workout. Then think about that smoothie, or the endorphin rush you’ll feel. Allow yourself to anticipate the reward. Eventually that craving will make it easier to push through the gym doors every day.

61 (Dungy) In his job interviews he would patiently explain his belief that the key to winning was changing a players habits. He awaited to get players to stop making so many decisions during a game, he said. He wanted them to react automatically, habitually. If he could instill right habits, his team would win. Period.

62 So rather than creating new habits, Dungy was going to change players old ones. … Dungy only wanted to attack the middle step, the routine. He knew from experience that it was easier to convince someone to adopt a new behavior if there was something familiar at the beginning and end.

62 Rather, to change the habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.

85 Belief was the ingredient that made a reworked habit loop into a permanent behavior.

89 But we do know that for habits to permanently change, people must believe that change is feasible…. Belief is easier when it occurs within a community.

99 If you want to understand how Alcoa is doing, you need to look at our workplace safety figures….. Safety will be an indicator that we’re making progress in changing habits across the entire institution. That is how we should be judged. Paul Oneal

100 You can’t order people to change. That’s not how the brain works. So I decided I was going to start by focusing on one thing. If I could start disrupting habits around one thing, it would spread throughout the entire company.

100 Keystone habits say that success doesn’t depend on getting everything single thing right, but instead relies on identifying a few key priorities and fashion them into powerful levers.

112 Small wins fuel transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach.

123 This is the final way that keystone habits encourage widespread change: by creating cultures where new values become ingrained. Keystone habits make tough choices – such as firing a top executive – easier, because when Taft person violates the culture, it’s clear they have to go.

124 Cultures grow out of the keystone habits in every organization, whether leaders are aware of them or not.

137 willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things.

139 It was like the exercise study: as people strengthened their willpower muscles in one part of their lives – in the gym, money management program – that strength spilled over into what they ate or how hard they worked. Once willpower became stronger, it touched everything.

139 When you learn to force yourself to go to the gym or start your homework or eat a salad instead of a hamburger, part of what happens is that you’re changing the way you think… People get better at regulating their impulses. They learn how to distract themselves from temptations. And once you’ve gotten into the willpower groove, your brain is practiced at helping you focus on a goal.

143 Put another way, patients plans were built around inflection points when they knew their  – and thus the temptation to quit – would be strongest. The patients were telling themselves how they were going to make it over the hump.

145 What employees really needed were clear instructions about how to deal with inflection points… A routine for employees to follow when their willpower muscles went limp.

146 This is how willpower becomes a habit: by choosing a certain behavior ahead of time, and then following that routine when an inflection point arrives.

175 All those leaders seized the possibilities created by a crisis. During turmoil, organizational habits become malleable enough to both assign responsibility and crest a more equitable balance of power. Crisis are so valuable, in fact, that sometimes it’s worth stirring up a sense of looming catastrophe rather than letting it die down.

180 A company with dysfunctional habits can’t turn around simply because a leader orders it. Rather, wise executives seek out moments of crisis – or create the perception of crisis – and cultivate the sense that something must change, until everyone finally ready to overhaul the patterns they live with each day.

Chapter 7 – you have to sandwich new things between familiar things to make them a habit.

224 When sociologist have examined how opinions move through communities, how gossip spreads or political movements start, they’ve discovered a common pattern: our weak tie acquaintances are often as influential – if not more- than our close-tie friends.




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