The Power of Habit

“If you believe you can change – if you make it a habit – the change becomes real. This is the real power of habit; the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be.”


Listen to my interview with Charles Duhigg (recorded 19 December 2013)

If you’ve ever struggled with how to be a better person… if you’ve ever wanted to change some aspect of your life (your health, your finances, your career, your relationships) then you know how powerful your habits can be. They can either make or break you.

The Power of Habit, by author Charles Duhigg, takes us on a journey to better understanding why habits exist and how they function. Duhigg’s central argument is: “Habits can be changed, if we understand how they work.”

The book is divided into four main parts. Part one looks at the habits of individuals. Part two examines how successful organizations (from retail giants, to sports teams, to Starbucks) use habits – both their own internal habits and the habits of their clients. Part three looks at the habits of societies and has a fascinating look at how social movements happen. And part four is an appendix which offers a four-step process for using the book’s ideas.

Once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom – and the responsibility – to remake them.
I found the second part of the book, the part dealing with how organizations use habits, to be particularly compelling. I think we’re all aware that corporations put a lot of thought, energy and money into their marketing strategies, but I was surprised at just how sophisticated many retailers are at using the psychology of habit to get us to open our wallets time and time again. Consider yourself warned: if you read this section of the book, you just may have a strong desire to cut up all of your corporate rewards and loyalty cards! Also, after reading about the story of Angie Bachmann, you may never set foot in a casino again!

choose_your_habitsI also found the section on social movements very interesting. Duhigg looks at Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott and explains the role that social habits played in kicking the civil rights movement into high gear.

The real payoff comes in the appendix, where Duhigg offers a practical guide to using all of the ideas in the book in our ongoing quest to become a better person. He gives a very clear four-step process that he describes as: “a framework for understanding how habits work and a guide to experimenting with how they might change.”

If you are interested in making conscious change in your life, you should check out this book.