Book Review: The Power of Habit – Why We Do What we Do in Life and Business

Charles Duhigg has written this amazing book about our habits, you know the stuff you do every day without thinking about it. From brushing your teeth first thing in the morning, to making your morning coffee or tea, to driving to work, to getting your shoes on after work and hitting the gym, all of the routine tasks we do daily.

The book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What we Do in Life and Business, describes how habits form and how you can actually modify them effectively.

It turns out that every habit starts with a psychological pattern called a “habit loop,” which is a three-part process. First, there’s a cue, or trigger, that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and let a behavior unfold. Then there’s the routine, which is the behavior itself. That’s what we think about when we think about habits. The third step, he says, is the reward: something that your brain likes that helps it remember the “habit loop” in the future”









Certain habits even form addictions or cravings. Duhigg discusses these cravings all the way from the negative, the alcoholics, the incessant gamblers, etc. to the positive, why we get addicted to eating better foods, exercising regularly and following a schedule. What’s interesting is that even when you crave something you still have the mental acuity to change these habits and cravings; that’s the beauty of being a human you have control over your own free will.

How do you create great habits or change your cravings?

Theoretically there are two ways, through either the cue or the reward. Creating habits that stick, means understanding both the cue and the reward. It’s the only way to change the routine.

Changing the reward, to try and change the routine, is much more simplistic. Pick something you like, desire, brings you contentment, etc. and you will likely be able to change your routine, the habit. But it is likely a short term reward that may not have the long term results you’re looking for.

Change that really sticks must come from understanding the cue. However, this does prove to be more challenging. Duhigg takes us through a personal account of how he changed a cookie eating habit. Each day he had a habit of going to the cafeteria and eating a cookie; unfortunately this cookie was having deleterious effects on his life, he was gaining weight. Was it the cookie he craved? The socializing? The walk? To determine what was causing this routine, Duhigg wrote down what happened around that time of the day he craved a cookie. Over the course of a couple of weeks Duhigg’s notes helped him break his cookie habit and create a healthier habits. By understanding what caused him to want the cookie he was able to change his routine or habit.

What’s the takeaway?

Sure we all have some bad habits. The good news is that you have the ability to change them. Even better, if you’re willing to put in a little work you can reap large rewards. For a society that bases many decision on the Return-on-Investment (ROI), this seems like a risk worth taking; the reward can be massive.

Parents, coaches, teachers, this book is great for inspiring good habits amongst our youngsters. In addition, if you’re someone who has bad habits, I highly recommend the book. Same for people who like to have control over a lot of the things in their life, it has some great ideas on how to control things in your life in an efficient and effective manner.

I’ve just started Rolf Dobelli’s, The Art of Thinking Clearly. It is a bit of a contrast to The Power of Habit, suggesting that we have less control over things in our lives than we are lead to believe. But I’ve have just started. Another book review coming shortly.