The Power of Habit

by katystreet

By Charles Duhigg.

Part one of this book is great and I hope it changes my life. It outlines a theory of how habits work and how we can change them. The theory is that a habit it made up of three parts: cue, routine, and reward. The key towards changing your habits is identifying the cue and the reward, (you tend to know exactly what the routine is,) then replacing the routine with something you’d rather do that still triggers some kind of reward for you (and follows the original cue.) Apparently habits can’t be erased, only overridden. The final, and necessary, concept behind habit changing is that stressful life events or particularly enticing cues can cause you to fall back into the habit you tried to change; the way to get past this is to make a plan for getting through those times and to have a belief that you can follow it.

Although this is simple, it’s easy to see how far the theory can go in changing your life. Duhigg doesn’t dive into this much, but habits control huge portions of your day and therefore your life. Taking control of them is an incredibly powerful way to take control of your life.

Part two is interesting and focuses on habits in successful organizations. I thought the idea of keystone habits was strong–changing one habit can bleed into many others–as was the idea of willpower as a muscle and predictor of success. However, here he starts to delve into case studies and concepts I’m not convinced are highly related to habits. He talks a lot about data-driven marketing, which can be understood through a framework of habits of the consumer. I agree that we can frame marketing with consumer habits but I always get the feeling in these kinds of books that the author just thinks everything can now be understood with their theory. I don’t think habits are a particularly useful way to understand big data.

Part three goes off the deep end for me, talking about the civil rights movement and strong versus weak social ties… It just didn’t feel relevant and I was already gun-shy about trying to push everything into a habits-shaped hole. I skimmed this part, which also included a comparison of a man who killed his wife while sleep walking and a woman who gambled away her and her parents fortune. I think he took on something much larger than and, again, not relevant to habit.

Still, part one was awesome and totally worth it.