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The science of making—and breaking—habits (with Charles Duhigg)
Last Updated December 21st, 2012

With the new year fast approaching, I’m setting some new goals for myself, and I’m sure you are, too.

My New Year’s resolutions include breaking some of my annoying habits and making some useful ones.

How will you keep your New Year’s resolutions this year?

Well, that’s why I invited the New York Times best-selling author Charles Duhigg to join me on my podcast.

We’ll talk about how to develop new habits, how to kick those bad habits, and, most importantly, how to harness the power of habit to persuade your readers and customers.

How to Create Good Habits (and Break Bad Ones)

Before you listen to the podcast, let me tell you a little bit about Charles Duhigg.

Charles is an investigative journalist for the New York Times, and the New York Times best-selling author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (aff).

(If you haven’t heard about his book, it was one of the best books of the year, and has remained on best-seller lists since he released it back in February 2012).

It’s an honor to have him on Social Triggers Insider, and I know you’ll love him. So, press play already!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

If you enjoyed this podcast, take a second to send Charles Duhigg (twitter handle is @cduhigg) a tweet. I know he’ll appreciate it. You can say something as simple as:

“Just heard @cduhigg on @derekhalpern’s podcast. It was awesome!” – Click to Tweet

Did you know Social Triggers Insider is now on iTunes? If you enjoy this series, please take a few seconds and leave an honest review. It would be a huge help.

What will we cover on this podcast? Here’s a quick summary:

  • How making toothpaste tingle turned a failing product into a multibillion dollar industry

  • Why you MUST harness the science of small wins to turn random, drive-by visitors into raving fans and loyal customers

  • The secrets to understanding how to change old and create new habits

  • L. A. T. T. E. – five practical, easy-to-remember steps for dealing with angry people

  • PLUS – anecdotes about Starbucks, Michael Phelps, and more that will blow your mind.

Right click this link to save the audio as a MP3 file to your computer

The transcript for this podcast is not available… yet. Please check back.

Also, I highly suggest you pick up Charles book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (aff). It’s a GREAT read, and it might be the PERFECT gift for a friend who’s looking to change something about themselves in 2013. Check out this trailer:

Now I have a question…

What habits do you plan on breaking or creating in 2013? Tell me all about it in the comments below.

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43 comments Leave a comment

I was just listening to this podcast again recently, and it talked about giving your customers little wins as soon as you can.

I know you like practical applications, and while I was reading Wikipedia about an old NES game character, I saw this…

Re: “Glass Joe” on “Punch Out!”: “Glass Joe’s debut was in the first Punch-Out!! game for the arcades in 1984. According to an editor of UGO Networks, the character’s role in the arcade game was to give young players a sense of accomplishment, which motivated them to spend quarters trying to beat the more difficult opponents that appear afterward.”

Thought you’d love to know about that!

Peter Billingham

Hi Derek, just shows the long-term value of excellent content. Although this was posted a few months ago, I wanted to commend you on the excellent podcast with Charles Duhigg. what I really appreciate in listening to your podcast is the obvious research and thought that you have put into preparing for the interview. In particular, the way that you pause, reflect, rephrase and summarise the section so far, is exceptionally helpful. In this particular episode the section on “small wins” and the LATTE method are disproportionate in value to the time invested in listening. They truly are wonderful insights. I will definitely add the book to my wish list (it’s getting longer after listening to each episode of yours) but tremendous value hearing the author first. The link above to the info graphic is also very helpful, noticed it was from a fellow Brit! Regarding the appreciation cards, this is something that I have already put into practice in my leading a regional office in Kiev, Ukraine. It’s very interesting to see, because if it is rare in the West, it is almost unheard-of in the East. But my team is finding it extremely beneficial but only to appreciate, but to comment on good work, and to just say thanks. Once again, thanks for the generosity and the value of your content.


Funny, I was talking about this very subject in a women’s workshop I taught at just this past week. We discussed how many of our neural triggers for behavioral patterns become fixed early on in life and how we take guidance for our automated reactions from situational and contextual cues (clues or stimuli we leave around for ourselves). These cues and the meaning we attach to them trigger a variety of automated behaviors we perform daily (defined as habits).

Our lives are largely made up of those automatic behaviors.

I focused mostly on strategies that can be successfully employed to create a nurturing environment for success. I usually work with women who struggle with PTSD, GAD and SAD. They have often been traumatized and victimized, usually in a trusting relationship. Due to that damage, they have developed very debilitating definitions to their situational and contextual cues, thus develop very dysfunctional behavior patterns in relationship as a result.

I referenced Charles’ work during this workshop for further reading. I also referenced research that confirms what ultimately determines whether or not our strategies for habit changes are set up for success or failure.

Another gentleman’s work on habit change (to continue your dialogue on habits and behaviors), Jeremy Dean, was featured on Huffingtonpost.com http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeremy-dean/how-to-break-any-bad-habi_b_2535787.html . You might find his work enlightening as well.

Most people do not realize they have set themselves up for failure for any goal they wish to achieve, because they do not take into consideration the cues they use to automate most of their reactions to life’s stimuli.

When we set up our contextual and situational clues for our brains to trigger the appropriate response – we are more likely to initiate a change in a habit or create a new habit effortlessly.

The free ebook I offer my website covers strategies we can employ to rapidly re-pattern any behavior effortlessly. It’s written for women to share with them how to make, powerful, rapid changes in their lives, no matter their circumstances.

Thank you so much for sharing this interview with us. I loved it.


What?! Thrown in jail for prostitution?! Are you serious?! Is this a joke?!

Laura Ecker

My small win is listening to your podcasts. Social triggers offers useful information that I use in business and in life in general. Your podcast is the one I never miss.

Alan | Life's Too Good

I’ve been fascinated by habits and behavioral psychology for some time and really enjoyed reading Charles’ book which I’d also highly recommend to anyone as it’s a subject everybody should be able to relate to.

I actually wrote a few articles on my site on Habits too a while ago – basically explaining that the commonly held view that doing something for 30 days is not always enough to form a habit – you need to look at the trigger and reward aspects of habits for them to really stick – I mention Charles’ book too and he gives several great examples in there as you say.

The part I find most fascinating is that once a ‘spike’ is formed around the reward, that spike actually moves forwards in time due to anticipation of that reward, well, not just that, I find the whole subject fascinating 😉

Great stuff…

Mary Alice Smith

Hi Derek!

So glad I listened to this podcast today. The segment on small wins gave me insight on the power of keeping your or your client’s momentum using this mentality. By the way, the book ‘The Power of Habit’ is now on my iPad – looking forward to reading it after work!


Thanks for this poadcast – my goal for 2013 is to take distance on the physical and stressful habits and concentrate on the essential…


Loved this book…love this interview. Thanks, Derek.


Love this podcast and definitely make a better habit in the future rather than giving excuses on thing I must do.

Salman Ahmad

Awesome Podcast buddy ! Keep the great work!

Milo Bozovich

Great read.. A big part of growing as a human being is learning to break bad habits and replace them with good ones.. The older we get the more difficult it becomes but it’s not something we should ignore..

Katharine Trauger

And so, if you try, say, L.-A.-T. and they’re still FREAKING because they wanted wine and cheese at your Starbucks, and you know you can’t promise the “-E.” part, so it’s going nowhere, that’s a hater, right? Just checkin’.

Clayton Elliott

Halfway into the podcast and loving it already! Great guest-select Derek! Hadn’t heard of Charles Duhigg until now.

Will be using the L.A.T.T.E. technique from now on instead of getting caught up in other people’s problems.

Thanks for the highly-applicable content!


Oooh so that is how habits work. Well, I’m planning to quit smoking come new year and I just have the right plans to do that. Thanks Derek and Charles. Superb ideas shared here.


Brian Bennis

Another very enjoyable and valuable audio. Thanks for such great advice and tips during 2012. Have a jolly Christmas break. Looking forward to hearing more from you in 2013.

Justin Westbrooks

Just started listening to his audiobook – incredible! As life gets busier and time more valuable, bad habits have got to go. Thanks for bringing Charles on your show – what a treat! Make it a great day!

David Bennett

Heads Up

I’m getting a Google ‘phishing’ warning when I click on Clare J Fitzgerald’s name here in the comments

    Clare J Fitzgerald

    Hey David- thanks for the heads up. I think my little site must have been attacked by something.

    I’ll get onto my web master straight away!

    Not a good start to the holidays 🙁


Your podcasts are the best, Derek! The Power of Habit is sitting in my book stack, it’s now on the top! 🙂


thanks Derek,

Getting down and dirty with habit breaking is essential to moving onward and upward. I’ve been quite busy with that myself

I find the idea of instant reward interesting. Wondering how it would fit into my model. most of my teachings has to do with patience, persaverence and faith. hmm…

where can I offer a “tingle” here and there.

Thank again Derek.

Awesome, as usual



Personally to develop a morning routine before I sit a my desk to work. If 45 min & 6 second is all it takes … I have that amount of time.

For my business: to WRITE !

To provide my audience with their 2-MINUTE mental VACATION.
– – – – –
The benefit of today’s podcast was it started me thinking about how I can engage my readers for an immediate reward that will become a habit.

I WELCOME input and would love to brainstorm; we can discuss my website and yours.

Thank you and Merry Christmas everyone

Jessica Scheer

I read this book in September and loved it! I’ve been working on creating habits intentionally and was blown away by a few of the examples: sports and fabreeze! So interesting 🙂 THanks for sharing!

Clare J Fitzgerald

OMG Derek – you must be a mind reader.

I’ve just been sitting down contemplating the year that has just been and really thinking about the personal qualities & habits I want to try grow next year, and the key things I want to achieve in the first two months of 2013.

At the same time, I am currently reading Charles’ book so the opportunity to hear him on your podcast today was perfect timing.

I really liked Charles’ idea of piggy backing on an existing habit people already have if you want to create a new habit or behaviour in others and your example of the iPad. This is an interesting concept to consider when creating a product and has given me some food for thought.

And of course the concept of giving your customers a small win/great experience consistently whenever they visit or purchase from you is pure gold.

Thanks for a great podcast Derek and wishing you a lovely holiday break over the next week.

    Clare J Fitzgerald

    Please do not click on my name above as there seems to be some sort of attack on my website which I am trying to get sorted.


Troy Vayanos

Great podcast Derek & Charles,

Would I be right in saying that small wins when writing a blog would be things like receiving a comment, a like on your Facebook page or a tweet on Twitter?

I would like to create the habit of making daily interesting comments on other blogs & interacting with as many bloggers as possible.

Looking forward to more success in 2013

Mr. G

I’ll try to start with procrastination, after I do some other things first.

David Bennett

Thank you Derek,

Mr Duhigg is obviously sincere and capable, and I enjoyed listening to the tape.

I am in the UK, so I clicked through to Amazon.co.uk.

I read the reviews. Most were positive, with a few kind of complaining that the book didn’t teach them enough about how to form habits. That was strange because some of those same reviews actually mentioned the practical information in the book about how to change habits.

So, negative cascading comes to mind – and I’m feeling vaguely positive and I placed an order for the book.

The infographic in My Duhigg’s book ( http://charlesduhigg.com/flowchart-for-changing-habits/ ) is excellent.

    Clare J Fitzgerald

    Thanks for the link to Charles’ site and a larger representation of the diagram David.

    Derek Halpern

    Thanks for sharing the link David.

Tennille Hopper

Great podcast. I will be pickup Charles book. Thanks.

    Derek Halpern

    Do let me know what you think of the book when you’re done!


I’ve learned about the LATTE method back in my first year of University at a social physiology class I had to take. I thought it was BS and my professor told me to try it out for a week. If it didn’t work, he’d stop teaching it. So, I went around, implementing it on my pi**ed of friends, in family squabbles, etc, and…it actually WORKED. I couldn’t believe how well people actually respond to being calm and saying- I hear what you’re saying and I’m sorry, I made a mistake. It’s like an instant switch from fire puking dragon, to a calm and nice person.

    Derek Halpern

    Funny, right?

Iván de León

Great video explanation, you not only lose weight cutting sugar, you save money, exercise a little more and the same time socialize. Just great, I’m going to do my version in spanish. Thanks for share it.

    Derek Halpern

    You should listen in to the podcast as well.

      Iván de León

      Of course, I downloaded it to listen tomorrow. Thanks!

Andy Traub

Charles is wicked smart and his book is phenomenal. Thanks for having him on the show. Great job my friend. I appreciate your energy Derek.

    Derek Halpern

    You’re welcome Andy!

    I actually published this today by accident, but once it was live, I figured I’d run with it :-D.

    The Friday before Christmas is always horrible for publishers!

      David Bennett

      But the coming new year and the resolutions that go with it, are great for making new habits. 🙂


it seems you got the Charles Duhigg twitter handle wrong
@cduhigg (not @charlesduhigg)

    Derek Halpern

    Fixed, thanks.

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