Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

What prompted me to first start reading the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg was it’s billing as a way to explore how habits are created and ended and what the roots of our habits are. Just like many others in our world, I was interested in making the most of my time and getting rid of habits that were not allowing me to live life to the fullest. At the same time, I wanted to introduce some positive habits into my life that would help me become a better version of myself.

When I started reading the book, I began wondering if this was the right book for this exploration. The opening pages of the book use examples from the medical community (and actually there are examples laced throughout the book) where individuals have had traumatic brain injuries or surgeries that took away their memory, but yet they were still able to maintain habits that they had developed over their lifetime. Beyond that, the book also discussed individuals who had turned their lives around and inserted good habits in the place of bad habits.

I felt like this book was a good complement to the book Switch by Dan and Chip Heath.  Dan and Chip Heath talk about the art of making change when change is hard. Charles Duhigg shares an array of examples that reflect how habits are formed, how they can be changed, and even how movements are formed.

One of the big epiphanies for me was found in the appendix. Duhigg gives a concise synopsis of how to identify the craves associated with habits so that those habits can be reshaped.  The basic framework is to identify a routine. A routine usually consists of a cue and a reward. For instance, Duhigg suggests that maybe a routine of stopping by the snack machine at work may not be because one is hungry. Maybe the cue is needing to connect with others, the reward is connecting with others, but the routine is buying a snack. It is hard to identify what the reward is though, because one might believe that the reward is the snack, so Duhigg suggests experimenting with rewards to find out what one is seeking. Then he suggests isolating the cue. Cues typically fall into one of five categories. 
  • emotional state 
  • time 
  • location
  • other people
  • immediately preceding action.  
When the cue is identified, one can develop a plan to cultivate a new habit. For more details, I recommend reading the book.

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