Sample Argumentative Essay on The Power of Habit

Habits can be described as part of the human consciousness which creates recurrence in
thought and actions. Essentially, when a person undertakes an activity or goes through an
experience its memory is held temporarily by the brain. This is obviously a good thing because it
enhances the ability to learn complex tasks such as playing the guitar or driving. However, the
downside to this is the fact that we would rather not remember the bad things that happen, but
the conscience does not have the ability to distinguish between these bad things and the good
things. in this regard, the discussion of habit must first acknowledge the fact that there is an
advantage and disadvantage. However, this essay will attempt to use the discussion of habit to
examine the potential of the human mind to change habits. In this regard, the human brain is seen
as a powerful tool that can be manipulated through routines and exercises so as to create
desirable outcomes and eliminate undesirable ones. The book The Power of Habits by Charles
Duhigg offers significant insight into this topic.
The process of change is a recurring discussion in many of the modern day attempts to
understand human behavior as a result of acquire habits. People generally want to learn how they
can change their habits because often they create harm and hurt the people around them.
However, not many discussions attempt to explain what habit really is, and how it is created. In

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this context, it is significantly difficult to change that which is unknown. In The Power of
Change, Duhigg presents findings of past research which have made massive breakthroughs in
understanding how the human brain works. In one such experiment, scientists at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology performed tests on a human subject, Eugene, with the
objective of understanding how he had lost his memory, and how it could be rebuild. In this
experiment, the scientists made the discovery that the human brain called the basal ganglia was
responsible for keeping memories of routines (Singer 23). Over time, the routines subjected to
the subject were seen to become habits. With this part of the brain being healthy and intact in
Eugene’s brain, the scientists soon learned that he could learn new behaviors. Based on this
observation, it can be deduced that the human brain, particularly the basal ganglia, performs the
specific task of creating habits out of routines. According to Duhigg, as a person becomes
familiar with a routine then the actions and responses are what become habits (20). Based on this
argument, it is imperative to go further and examine the ways that the human brain can be
manipulated through habits.
The habit loop is the process through which the human routines and responses build
habit. Essentially, people perceive habits as something they do without really planning to do
them. An example of such as habit is alcoholism and smoking. The user of these substances
subconsciously understands the dangers but they still find themselves doing it. What happens for
these undesirable habits to form is that the human brain identifies a routine where it is stimulated
by “cues” and “rewards”. According to Duhigg, the cue is basically the guiding principle that
leads the human brain to remember a routine (19). An example of a cue is that desire by a smoke
to smoke, or an alcoholic to enter a bar. These subconscious reactions are elements of a routine
created over time. On the other hand, the reward is the final outcome of the response. For an

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alcoholic, rewards could be anything from partying to simply being drunk (Singer 36). Over
time, the individual develops a connection between the cue, routine, and the reward. Seeing how
habits form, it is important to note that the routines are initially a time thing, but they become
habits after they are repeated and imprinted in the brain in this cue-routine-reward loop.
Therefore, it is not hard to see why people have difficulty quitting drinking whey they still have
the same drinking buddies they have had for a long time.
Indeed, to break a habit it is inevitable to begin by eliminating the cue and changing the
perceptiveness about being a reward. Still, it becomes difficult to change the perceptiveness of
the reward, especially when the factors of addiction kick in. Therefore, the next thing to
understand in the discussion of habits and how to change them is a look at the achievements of
scientists in this psychological field of study. In this context, it can be seen that over the past
decades scientists have understood habits better than before (Singer 61). Having learnt to break a
habit in these parts and processes, people have finally learnt the potential ways to change habits
such as excessive feeding, lack of physical exercise, and living healthily. The common thing
about these habits is that they have desirable outcomes. In this regard, people will exercise more
because they learn to maintain a memory of the reward, which could be a longer life or a higher
self-appeal. In these cases, the person learns the routine of exercising or eating unprocessed
foods, and with time they find reward in the form of reduced weight and increased health. Still, it
must be noted that the effect is opposite for breaking bad habits. In the latter case, the challenge
arises because the current situation is imprinted in the brain as the reward. A smoker feels that
feeling the relief after smoking is the reward, and it can be difficult to program the brain to
believe that quitting smoking is the real reward. Given these varying situation it is apparent that

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habits cannot be looked at from the perspective of routines. People can keep a routine of
exercising but the same becomes harder for breaking bad habits.
Another aspect that comes into the discussion of habits is the power of the human will.
Although Duhigg goes into great detail to describe the nature of habits and the process for
creating them, the discussion of breaking them simply narrows to the will of the individual.
According to Duhigg;
“Once you understand that habits can change,” he concludes, “you have the freedom —
and the responsibility — to remake them. Once you understand that habits can be rebuilt,
the power becomes easier to grasp, and the only option left is to get to work. (271)”
In the previous discussion habit was seen as a process of the brain’s interaction and
manipulation of the surroundings. In this regard, the memories are not seen simply as something
the brain chooses to keep but rather something it is stimulated to do. Therefore, the statement
that habits can be rebuilt supports the idea that really the will and determination of the human
can alter habits. Still, acknowledging the existence of these habits has to be the first step in
making the desired changes (Duhigg 54). People who do not admit that they have bad habits
often dismiss the problem as something they can control. In this case, an alcoholic might say that
they drink when they want but fail to realize that the habit is constantly being kept by the brain,
making harder and harder to alter. In the same manner, a person wanting to cut weight might
think that the do not need a workout schedule. However, understanding about habits shows that
submitting to the control of habits is a first step in identifying the cues and changing the
perceptiveness of rewards. Habits are seen to be self-controlled processes; to maintain the habit
you must maintain the routine which creates the desired outcome. Still, behavioral scientists are

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researching further on aspects such as withdrawal whereby they want to understand the process
of altering habits and making new ones part of the routines.
Group behavior and company performance can also be influenced in the same way that
individuals can change their habits by understanding them. The process of change in these group
settings involves a more complex process of establishing cues, routines, and rewards (Duhigg
34). Companies have achieved great success in the past by understanding the habits of their
customers and employees. Indeed, the study of habit has numerous potentials and implications
that could ultimately change the way people think. Continued research should identify the ways
that habits can be broken or created with the use of technologies. The understanding of habits
and how they are formed will influence these researches and suggest new ways to restore
memory or even distinguish between desirable and undesirable habits.

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Works cited

Duhigg, Charles. The power of habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. Vol. 34. No.
10. Random House, 2012.
Singer, J. "Habits of Practice, Habits of Thought." Journalism (2018).