A review of The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Reviewed by P.P.O. Kane

The Power of Habit
By Charles Duhigg
Random House Books
2013, ISBN: 9781847946249

This engaging, well researched book explores the role of habit in our individual lives, in business and in society at large.

On one level, habits – in essence, learned behaviours – are both beneficial and necessary.  Put simply, we need them in order to function.  But on another level, they can be pernicious and parasitic to our well-being; consider the various addictions and quasi-addictions: alcoholism, gambling, smoking, over-eating…

To drive home his key points, Charles Duhigg deploys an adroit selection of diverse examples: some  moving and inspirational, others thought-provoking or entertaining. Companies strive to ‘create a craving’ for their products (it is called seizing market share) and may track the buying habits of their customers through loyalty cards and the like.  Then again, Martin Luther King, Jr. achieved gargantuan social progress and immense influence by centreing a new habit in American political life, that of nonviolent protest.

Duhigg examines these and the myriad other guises habit may don, while also addressing the question of how we, as individuals, can change bad habits and create new ones.  There is no easy answer here but the key lies in what he calls the habit loop: a cue leading to a routine (the learned behaviour itself) in order to obtain a reward.  Belief is also important: the belief that you really can change, if you put your mind to it.  Belief enables you to overcome the inevitable crises and avoid relapse.

An accessible and worthwhile study, full of sound, evidence-based advice, which may well help you to achieve your goals.

About the reviewer: P.P.O. Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. He welcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at ludic@europe.com