[book review] The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Good start but dwindled near the end, The Power of Habit shows how we are affected by our habits and how we can identify, control, and ultimately shape ourselves with the habits that we have created over time.

Divided into three parts, The Power of Habit talks about how habits affect individuals, organizations, and societies. We already know that our habits shape what type of person we become, but how do we actually create these habits in the first place, and more importantly, how do we change our bad habits.

Habits of Individuals

Starting off with the habits of individuals, I think this is the strongest part of the book as it scientifically shows how we are guided by our habits. We all have habits both good and bad and realizing what they are is a big part of how we can better ourselves. Duhigg talks about the habit loop which is the major parts of our habits. I’m not sure who created the term, but he definitely popularized it and how we should change the way we look at habits.

Through various experiments and research, we have found out that habits are ingrained in our minds and the parts that dictate habits makes it hard to change. Cue, routine, and reward is a diagram that he refers to when explaining a habit and it makes it easy for us to understand the situation as well as helping us look at our own habits with these criteria in mind.

If you think about it, we don’t necessarily do a habit out of nowhere, usually, we are in the correct environment or situation that we engage in a habit. Several examples are presented in the book from cookie eating, gambling, and quitting smoking. Several keystone habits were also presented on how certain habits affect others. I like the idea of a keystone habit, a routine than affects other parts of our lives. I can attest that going to the gym regularly did have a huge effect not just in my fitness, but also in my eating, sleeping habits and general positivity. I’m guessing it’s more of the physical and mental effect of exercising that brought this but it definitely helped a lot in other aspects. The idea of a keystone habit is definitely something that we should consider when trying to replace a bad habit. He had several more example of such habits especially with the story of the lady trying to quit smoking.

Here he also discuss some marketing tactics that Pepsodent used and how using the cue, routine, reward pattern created an effective marketing campaign to get people to pick up brushing teeth with the toothpaste. This section went on and on with other examples such as Febreeze and for me, this type of correlation was starting to get tiring.

Here the author will interject some scientific experiments while going back to the current premise to show how his analysis made it relevant to current times. I know that he wants to back up his claims, but somewhere along the writing, it felt like he was trying hard to connect the two stories together.

Habits of Organizations

More examples of habit forming organizations, and here he moves away from the main pull of the book which is the cue, routine, reward and starts looking at how companies like Starbucks became one of the biggest managerial/training companies in the world and how Target “targets” you as a customer by business intelligence. 

Again, going back to my previous point of trying a bit hard to connect the main premise to the current story, I felt some points were a bit forced and lacking. More of this becomes obvious on the last chapter which definitely ended the book much weaker than how it began. 

Habits of Societies

This is where I felt that it definitely went downhill as the author talks about the Saddleback Church and Rosa Parks, which definitely blew me away on how he made that connection. He talked about how Saddleback was formed and how the founder shaped it to be a different type of church. Don’t fault me for reading A Purpose Driven Life (it was a gift) but I honestly cringed upon reading this part as it was such a jump from his initial point on the book. Such a complex situation with lots of hard work and a bit of luck can’t be attributed to his point just so that the story would fit. As well as looking for relatable parts of the story that can be attributed to his point, I think that the story is too complex to be just a puzzle fit into his book.

More especially cringe worthy was how he connected his main point, of which by this time was already muddled, with the whole civil rights movement. Of course it was presented well enough that you would believe how he packaged the whole thing with a final disclaimer that he knows it’s a complex situation blablabla but going through that route with a hard connection left me with a bad taste.

I greatly enjoyed the first part of this book, mostly because it was presenting a lot of scientific experiments and thought process on how they came with certain conclusions, but the latter part really made me think on why I still read these type of books. Should I limit myself with books that are written by scientists rather than journalists from New York Times. I have already given up on Malcolm Gladwell just because of his repetitive points type of books, but sometimes I still fall for this trick. I honestly liked his premise and how he researched it and all, but the last two thirds of the book just left me wanting to finish it and see how it goes.

None the less, at least now I know how routines should be analyzed. Cue, routine, reward.


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