by Brandon Reiter
When Charles Duhigg published The Power of Habit in 2012, it was an instant best seller and became widely regarded in the psychology and business reading communities. As the title suggests, the book focuses on the science of habits and how we can utilize them to our advantage. I know I’m about 10 years late here, but the book still holds up today as the lessons can be applied to multiple aspects of life and business.
I often find self-help books to jump all over the place, often failing to focus on one main message. Duhigg, on the other hand, does an excellent job of creating a linear flow, as each chapter builds upon each other, allowing the reader to follow along and learn as the book progresses. Below I will outline the major points Duhigg brings up, but I do strongly recommend giving this book a full read. You can order it on Amazon with this link.
How Habits Work
The first part of the book discusses how habits are formed, and how the brain uses a system to create them, for better or worse. He describes “The habit loop”, which is essentialy a cue which triggers an action that is followed by a reward. For instance an alarm clock cues someone to wake up and go to shoer, brush their teeth, and have a coffee without butch though which they are then rewarded by feeling ready to start their day. He uses many different examples of habit loops, and how the brain can turn tasks that can be at first complex to the brain, but get turned into habits as the brain gets more accustomed to the loop.
After educating the reader on how Habits work. Duhigg goes on to demonstrate how people can effectively change habits if they so desire. The main point is that habits can be changed if you keep the cue and reward the same but change the habit. For instance someone who is trying to stop smoking may be cued by seeing someone else light up a cigarette, they then light and smoke one themselves, and are rewarded from the feeling of destressing from smoking. If someone wanted to change that habit instead of smoking a cigarette they could have a few cups of coffee or a piece of nicotine gum. The cue and rewards are the same, but the action is different. Habits are tough to change at first but the more you get your brin accustomed to the new loop, the change becomes possible.
The next lawyer, Duhigg introduces is Keystone Habits. These are the important habits that when changed can have a domino effect on other habits. The example he uses is someone that starts an exercising habit can see other habits begin to form as a result. They might start to eat healthier, do drugs less, and so on. When it comes to business, identifying keystone habits within and organization that can have a major ripple effect on other habits the organization has fallen into is how successful CEOs make change.
This book does an excellent job of explaining how habits can be used effectively, by using tremendous examples from both life experiences and real-world business examples including a dysfunctional hospital, the King’s Cross fire of 1987, and how CEO Paul O’Neil transformed the aluminum producing conglomerate, Alcoa.