Book Review: The Power of habit: Why we do what we do in life and business

  • Author: Charles Duhigg.
  • Genre: Non-fiction.
  • Awards: Listed for Financial times and McKinsey business book of the year award in 2012. Part of best seller list of New York times, amazon.com and USA today.
  • About: The science behind habit creation and reformation.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change

The power of habit is a book about scientific discoveries that explains why habits exist and how they can be changed. This book has 4 key parts. First three parts are about understanding the science behind habits and its impact. The fourth and the most important part is about steps for changing habits.

Part 1:  Habits of individual

To understand individual habits, Duhigg introduces us to the circular concept of “The habit Loop”. As per this idea, habits have a Cue, a routine and a reward.

  • A Cue: A cue is a trigger to seek for the reward. This can be a situation or event.
  • A Routine: A routine is our habit. This is an emotional or a physical action we take to achieve the reward, once the cue is triggered.
  • A Reward: A reward is the result or satisfaction we get after following our routine or habit. Once we achieve the reward, we again look for the next cue to repeat our action.

Understanding this concept of individual habit makes it easy for us to change the habit. As Duhigg says:

“To change a habit, you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.”

Charles Duhigg

Part 2: Habits of successful organizations

In this part, Duhigg introduces us to the concept of “Keystone habit”. A Keystone habit is a single habit that produces a positive, chain effect in a person or organization. This part has few interesting examples from organization like target, Starbucks and few others.   

A keystone habit is an individual pattern that is unintentionally capable of triggering other habits in the lives of people. Duhigg wrote about the company Alcoa, and how CEO Paul H O’Neill was able to raise the company’s market capitalisation by $27 billion by targeting safety in the work environment. O’Neil said, “I knew I had to transform Alcoa, but you can’t order people to change, that’s not how the brain works. So I decided I was going to start by focusing on one thing. If I could start disrupting the habits around one thing, it would spread throughout the entire company.”

Part 3: Habits impact on society

This part of the book is about importance of social habits and lesion from the same.

Part 4: Steps for changing habits

“You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.”

Charles Duhiff

The habits cannot be eliminated but it can be replaced with a new one. To break the habit, you must keep the old cue and deliver the same reward but insert a new routine. Duhigg gives us four step process to help us changing any habits.

  • Identify the routine
  • Experiment with rewards
  • Isolate the Cue
  • Have a plan

Duhigg goes a step further by explain us how and when the plan tends to fail and how can we get back to our plan again. According to Duhigg, habit replacement plans works well until there is high stress event in life (like loss of job or death in family or divorce etc.) During high stress events some people might revert to their old habits which they want to change. The solution of the problem is to call for “High Power”. If people are by themselves in the journey of changing habits, they are more likely to doubt their own ability to give up habits. Calling high power might be to have a mentor we trust or to be in group which will convince them or few people might turn to religion.

Key lesson from the book:

  • All habits has a Cue, a Routine and a Reward loop.
  • To end any habit, replace it with a new routine and keeping cue and reward same.
  • Companies can use these habits and cravings to market to customer.  
  • The Golden rule of habit change helps stop addictive habits and replace them with new ones.

To conclude, we all have habits that we had like to change and this books is surely a master piece to understand how we create habits and provides method to change our habits.

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