Book review: The Power of Habit

By Charles Duhigg

So many personal development books, so little time!  Don’t worry, here is my short book review of ‘The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do and how to change’.  In under five minutes I will help you decide whether this read is worth your time.

Confession: I am something of a cynic when it comes to the ‘pop-Psychology’ genre of books.  I place high value on the empiricism and credibility of any research being referenced; a rigor that was instilled in me during the study of my BSc in Psychology.  But like everyone, I have habits of my own that I’d like to master control of.  So when I spotted this book, I had to give it a chance. 

I’m pleased to tell you that Duhigg met my high expectations.  He shared a balance of anecdotal and empirical findings in an eloquent and digestible way.  Because of this, The Power of Habit offers insightful wisdom without being heavy reading.

The Power of Habit book by Charles Duhigg

My biggest take-away

Most interesting to me was the concept of “Keystone Habits”.  A keystone habit is one thing you push yourself to do, which naturally leads to the formation of additional new habits.

For example, Duhigg cites a 2009 American study on weight loss, conducted by the National Institute of Health.  Members in one of the sample groups were asked to journal everything they ate, once a week.  This was the only behaviour change asked of them, yet six months into the study they had lost twice as much weight as the groups following other weight loss methods.  The single action of journalling led to an array of other actions, which ultimately led them closer to their goals.

It is inspirational to know that you can change one single action and that it can lead to far reaching results. 

Book to journal habits

What will I do differently now?

I will now think about my own habits in terms of a “habit loop” so that I can better understand the cue, habit and reward.  So, rather than thinking “I should drink less coffee”, I now consider the cues that make me want a cup.  Sometimes I have a coffee because of routine, a need for energy, the need for a break, hunger, thirst or feeling cold. 

Now I have started to think about the outcome I want; if it’s thirst, I can drink water.  If it’s that I’m cold, I’ll put on a jumper or do a few exercises.

Being conscious of the different cues or motivators for our many behaviours is a helpful step towards developing healthier habits.

Is this book worth your precious time?

I’ll be honest.  The ‘time-poor’ might find that some of the anecdotes relayed in this book drag on a little.  But consider this; they will take you much less time to read than they took to write.  The book took a considerably shorter time to write than it did for these people to learn the real life lessons that are being shared here.

A note to sole-traders and freelancers who do not work in or deal with large organisations.  If you are really tight on time, you could probably glean the lessons from this book by reading only as far as chapter five.  However, do not miss “A Reader’s Guide to Using These Ideas” in the Appendix, which offer some very practical help.  I still found value and interest in the other chapters, but not so much relevance to my current day-to-day.

“All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits”, Duhigg cites.  I couldn’t agree more with this statement.  If you want to do more or less of anything than you currently are, read this book.  It will help you.

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Here is a link to Amazon if you want to buy it now.

Have you read The Power of Habit?  What did you think?  Do you have any favourite personal development books?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below:

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    What a great idea to do book reviews! I may never get round to reading ‘The power of Habit’ , although you have inspired me to keep it on my ‘list’. Even your review has given me a potentially valuable way of looking at my own habits in life! I am fascinated that thinking about the outcomes I want in a situation can actually change my response to a ‘habit’ – and I love the example of asking myself why I want a ‘cuppa’ at a particular time. Mmmm! I will try to remember that one. Thanks.

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