Review: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Review: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

duhiggThe Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Charles Duhigg

400 pages

Published in 2012 by Random House

Source: Public Library

We all have habits. Some habits are good, like putting our keys in the same place every day, while other habits like overeating, are ones we wish we could get rid of. It’s the beginning of the year and many of us are trying to swear off our worst habits. After reading The Power of Habit, I’ve learned that deciding not to indulge in bad habits isn’t enough. While you need to do a lot more, there is hope.

When I initially picked up The Power of Habit, I thought it was a self-help book. Fortunately, it’s even better than that. Journalist Charles Duhigg brings together some of the most known and current psychological data to illustrate how easy it is to create habits but how hard it can be to change them or get rid of them altogether.

Duhigg reveals that every habit has a loop: cue, routine, and reward. For example, I have a habit of turning my computer first thing every morning. It’s not the morning routine that I want to have. I would rather do something productive in those hours while everyone is still asleep. Cues can be anything: a time of day, being around particular people, or even an emotion. My cue is that it’s morning. My routine is turning on my computer and checking my email. My reward: I guess knowing what’s going on online. According to the experts that Duhigg has consulted, if you change your routine, often you can change the habit. So I’ve been spending the past two weeks trying to change my routine. Instead of turning on my computer, I’ve been reading instead. I’m not at the point where my new routine is habit, but I love the feeling of having read x amount of pages without trying to cram in reading later on when my day is busy.

People aren’t the only ones with bad habits. Companies have institutional habits that can help or hinder profits. Starbucks, the Aluminum Company of America, and Rhode Island Hospital are among some of the examples given by the author on how institutional habits are often only changed in times of crisis. The disturbing thing to me was that in these times of crisis, some innocent person dies. But even companies can change and when they do, everyone wins.

Included in the book is a huge section of notes, in case you wanted to look something up in more detail and an appendix to help you change those bad habits. I learned a lot reading The Power of Habit and realized change is possible. My rating: five out of five stars.