Books, Non-Fiction, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessThe Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The Power of Habit and Why and What we do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg, a New York Times reporter, takes a reader to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed.

The book begins with anecdotal accounts of people who changed destructive habits in their lives. Many of these anecdotes are fascinating but one about of a man who had absolutely no short-term memory but was able to function as a result of habits already ingrained within him appealed to me. His case clearly demonstrates that there is something distinctive between one part of our brain and another.

In the book, Duhigg  tries, with his investigatory narrative by presenting various examples and stories of different people on different aspects of habits, to explain the basis of habit formation, and how can we change those habits. He expressively suggests that each habit whether regarding to smoking, drinking, eating high calorie food or even procrastinating one’s important tasks are all results of habits that have been optimized in one’s brain.

Duhigg first became fascinated by the power of habit eight years ago, while in Baghdad as a newspaper reporter. There, he met an army major who was conducting a curious experiment in the small town of Kufa: After analyzing taped footage of riots in the area, the major identified a common sequence — first a crowd of Iraqis would gather in the plaza, drawing in spectators and food vendors, then eventually someone would throw a rock and all hell would break loose.

So the major summoned Kufa’s mayor and made a strange request: Get the food vendors out of the plaza. The next time the sequence began to unfold and a crowd started to gather, something different transpired — the crowd snowballed and people started chanting angry slogans, but by dusk, people had gotten hungry and restless. They looked for the familiar kebabs, but they weren’t there. Eventually, the spectators left and the chanter lost steam. By 8PM, everyone was gone.

Upon asking the major how he figured out the clever strategy, Duhigg got the following response: “Understanding habits is the most important thing I’ve learned in the army.”

The Power of Habit explains the mechanism which Duhigg calls The Habit Loop.This habit loop contains three steps:

(1) Recognizing the habit you want to change. It can be of about anything from eating a cookie everyday in cafeteria to smoking endless cigarettes in a day to procrastinating your own tasks.

(2) Recognizing the routine of that habit. In other terms, What drives you to do something that you don’t want to happen?. Then, on finding another routine to divert your attention towards some other thing and practice the new routine you’re trying to overwrite the old one, daily.

(3) Reward yourself daily, when you successfully concentrate on performing the new routine and in the end, the ultimate reward of this would be the new habit formed.

Of course, generating a new routine and overwriting an old one is not an easy task as it might sound but trying and trying again in most of the cases will work. If you fail with establishing a new routing to bypass the former one, try to make some modifications in that new routine you are trying to adapt and that might work.

Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped. – Charles Duhigg

3.5 out of 5? For the reason that the author explains same mechanism over and over and advancing towards the end of the book, the narrative makes it a bit boring.

Still, I’d recommend this book to everyone. The information in this book is very worthwhile. Grab the book and I am sure you will learn something from it!

View all my reviews on Goodreads.com

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29 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg”

  1. Really interesting. I was listening to a discussion on NPR of the reflex that makes us almost unable to resist the dinging of our cell phones while driving. I wonder if the same techniqiues could curb an innate impulse, just like they curb learned impulses… I wonder where the line between the two is, too. Thanks much—I might request this at the library!

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  2. sometimes we just like the things we do and we don’t want to change them even if the world frowns upon them. I have read a couple of books along the same lines this year not sure if i am ready for another one, but a good review nonetheless.

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      1. We do seem to get caught up in the is bad habit versus good habit thingy but i am not sure that any habit is bad just different and although some are more detrimental to health than other, someone or other will give an example of their great grand… that lived to be 104 and smoked and drank and ate chips every night.

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      2. I agree that bad and good depends on one’s own definition for oneself. What I meant last comment was certainly refering to a single individual, and procrastination is a common example. But there are times, one needs to adapt according to some major factors that change with time and if one fails to adapt he might suffer for those actions that actually are result of his subconsciousness. So that’s where the need of a change in his routine is required considering the fact that most habits are one’s routine activites or the cause of it.

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