Book Review: “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business”

The Power of Habit was written by Charles Duhigg who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning business reporter for the New York Times. The book has a simple principle which is about our habits and how we can change them. It tells that our habits never really disappear, but we can overwrite them to create new ones. The book was written in a creative and engaging way which could really catch the attention of those reading it. It is divided into three parts which are, The Habits of Individuals, The Habits of Successful Organizations, and The Habits of Societies.

Duhigg explains in the book that we are all habitual people and our habits are composed of three different parts, or what is called the habit loop – the cue, the routine, and the reward. The cues are like triggers and there are certain situations we can be in which can urge us to fall into our habits such as, where we are, what we are doing at the moment, as well as what time of the day it is. The routine pertains to the act or the habit itself. Those can be good habits such as exercising, brushing your teeth, cleaning, etc., or bad habits such as smoking, eating junk food, biting your nails, etc. The reward refers to the feeling we get after completing our routine. For example, when smoking a cigarette, the reward we get after doing it is momentary stress relief.

Another example of a habit that Duhigg mentioned in the book was about tooth brushing. Back in the twentieth century, people had very poor dental hygiene, meaning, there was no identified cue yet for brushing the teeth. Claude C. Hopkins, one of the well-known ad men in history, developed a film that develops on one’s teeth which became the cue, and tooth brushing was the routine. The reward for this habit was created by the people at Pepsodent. They added mint flavor to the toothpaste which gave people a clean feeling after tooth brushing. Through the use of ads, tooth brushing became a habit of almost all people.

Based on the book, habits also have something to do with why some authors find it hard to introduce a new kind of story to the readers, and why publishers choose stories such as Twilight, The Hunger Games, and other popular movies over new ones. It is because readers tend to look for familiar stories which will give them the same reward they got from the previous books they’ve read.

According to Duhigg, habits are not destiny, because they can be ignored, changed, or replaced. When a habit emerges, our brains stop fully participating in decision making. It stops working hard as its focus diverts to another task. The pattern will unfold automatically unless we fight a habit and find new routines. However, our habits never really disappear. We can only overwrite them, but it’s easy to go back to the old ones. What’s good about the book is that Duhigg used lots of scientific studies as a backup to further explain the power of our habits.

The Power of Habit also focuses on the success of companies such as Alcoa, Starbucks, and P&G Febreeze, which are all interesting to know. It tackles when willpower becomes automatic, how leaders create habits, and when companies predict habits. The book is highly relatable because all of us have good and bad habits. However, some things which seem to be missing or what Duhigg did not focus on much, which I hoped he did, was about identifying the trigger or the cue to our habits, and also some downsides about the habit loop. He focused mainly on the positive habits, though he did tackle a few negative habits towards the end of the book such as smoking and procrastination.

All in all, I can say that The Power of Habit is a good book. It provides a lot of insights on how good habits can be created and how bad habits can be changed. Though it has a lot of scientific studies and explanations in it, Charles Duhigg has written it in a creative and entertaining way which will not bore the readers. It is a motivational book, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in changing their bad habits, as well as to those who are fascinated by how our brains work.