The Power Of Habit By Charles Duhigg


The Power of Habit attempts to tell us – Why we do, what we do in life and business. We all struggle with some of our habits – or the discipline that is required to change them. Who has not struggled with trying to getting up early morning or trying to lose weight? While we do not know our personal habits that we want to change, we are often oblivious to organizational habits that we are a part of. As a society at large, we do not even realize that we are a part of a habit loop.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

The author takes us through our habits as individuals, as part of organizations and society in general. He begins by walking you through a couple of cases where he takes you deep into the scientific research on habits. It’s interesting that habits continue to guide us even when we lose our ability to remember anything. He takes you in and out of our brains, medical labs, and patterns that emerge.

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How Habits Stick

The Power of Habit then takes you through the loop that makes the habits stick. It is a response to a cue, and if you can break the loop for a few days, you can potentially get rid of the habit. Having said that, you do understand the logic, reason, and science behind the habits. However, you get no easy pills that help you get rid of your habits. At best, it can help you identify cues that do not let you get out of your habits.

At an organizational level, there is a lovely case study of changing habits when the goals are changed from being revenue focussed to employee safety focussed. It talks about the collective habits of organizations and how sometimes we need to break them just like we need to break the individual habits.

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At a societal level, it talks about the protests by Blacks that were led by Martin Luther King and how it changed the history of discrimination in the USA. The author goes out to analyze what makes the people in society follow either the leaders or the causes that may not actually have a strong opinion on. The book cites another example of how an army major controlled riots by just keeping the food vendors away from the protest site. Can you imagine not getting food while protesting is a reason enough for people to not protest? Were people really coming to support the protest, or to have a picnic at the protest site? I wonder if this case study can be publicized to those who have the responsibility to control large scale protests.

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Charles talks about the ‘willpower’ and how strong willpower is at the base of any habit changing resolution. He talks about our belief to change is the real driver for any change. It was pleasantly surprising to know that universities have started giving courses on ‘strengthening your willpower’. Large corporations have started using willpower lessons to incorporate organizational habits. It took me back to Indian scriptures that always say that everything begins with your ‘Ichha Shakti’, your ‘willpower’.

Overall, it is an interesting read that takes you through the mind map of our habits at various levels. It tells you how habits behave and you can potentially use that to make them behave. I particularly enjoyed the last two parts as I was not aware of those habits.

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Understand Habits

Do not read it in the hope that it will help you change habits. Read it to understand habits and that may sometimes help you change habits.

Language is simple and impactful. The narrative flows seamlessly through the sections. The power of Habit is an easy book to read. You do not really get bored even when the author takes you through dry science subjects.

If habits intrigue you or trouble you, do read it.

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