Habits – why we form them and what helps us keep them – is a topic that’s been on my mind much lately. There have been periods of time in my life where good habits were beyond habit – they were my nature. But recently, I have found it difficult to build those good habits back into my life.
A quick and engaging read, Charles Duhigg begins with an explanation of how habits work on cues, with a resulting reward – known as the habit loop. I found the examples intriguing, from summaries of behavioral experiments to man with a brain injury who had little to no memory retention but built the habit of walking around his neighborhood and returning home. For me, Duhigg was speaking figuratively directly to the logic section of my brain. I knew what a habit is, but now I understand how they can be formed without your consent. But you want to create a new habit, willpower and a powerful motivational reward needs to be present.
The second section of the book was most interesting to me. Here, Duhigg focused on business and organizations and how habits of employees and leaders shaped effectiveness. By just focusing on safety, Paul O’Neill was able to create a keystone habit that increased the effectiveness of the Aluminum Company of America – throughout the organization – that lead to an environment of new ideas, communication efficiency, and happy workers. Duhigg also reports on the Target store pregnancy incident/formula, also known as How Target can Know Everything About You by Your Purchasing Habits.
The rest of the book discusses how we respond to social habits. Duhigg focused on the Montgomery Bus Boycott and why Rosa Parks’s arrest made the impression it did in her social circles. There’s a bit of peer pressure and fear of society judging us involved in uprisings and protests. The afterword section does bring up how to look at your habits and to find your cues and rewards – how to form your good habit loops. There is also a large notes section citing Duhiggs thorough research.
Duhigg does a superb job explaining what habits are and how they can be used in individual, organizations/business, and societal forms. If you are expecting a step-by-step self-help book in “The Power of Habit” I think you will be slightly disappointed. However, if it is knowledge and understanding you seek, I highly recommend this book. Although this book may not help me instantly rebuild the habits I seem to have lost, I do feel hopeful armed with a new understanding of habits.