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Book Review: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

habitArg! It’s the end of a stressful day at work. The boss has been on you about getting a report done, your coworkers keep asking you questions, and you still have to answer a never-ending list of emails. Taking a smoke break sounds really good to you right now. You reach into your desk for a pack of cigarettes and head outside to clear your head for five minutes. The problem is that you have been trying to stop smoking for months now! For whatever reason, all the nicotine gum in the world hasn’t helped. What do you do?

It’s no secret that changing a habit is hard work. In the best selling book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business author Charles Duhigg explains the science behind habits (good or bad). After you get a good idea of why a person exhibits the behavior that they do, he dives in and discusses what it takes to “change” a habit. Throughout the book are diagrams and images that show why humans get stuck doing the things they do. Duhigg calls this the “habit loop” where people have a cue, routine, and a reward. One can’t exist without the other, which is why habits are so hard to break.

The framework of the habit loop starts with identifying the routine, experiment with the reward, and then isolating the cue. After you’ve identified all three, Duhigg walks you through how to create a plan that will make it so you can eventually change the habit. Duhigg’s Golden Rule of Habit Change states, “You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.” It won’t happen overnight, but with time and patience, you can do it. And certainly when it comes to a bad habit, like smoking, you’ll really need to be kind to yourself!

One thing that makes The Power of Habit stand out from other self-help books is all of the research and science Duhigg includes to back up his method of how to improve behavior. While discussing the importance of small wins, he cites a paper from 1984 by Cornell professor who says, “Small wins are a steady application of a small advantage. Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win.” Using this research, Duhigg teaches more about the significance of small wins being a way to fuel transformative changes. Everything is thoroughly discussed and is easy to understand. Throughout his book, he helps people to see that they can reach their end goal if they continue to work hard at it.

Duhigg gives examples about how to apply his rules for habit change in business using Starbucks and Target as an example. At one point, he points out when Starbucks, after years of being praised as one of the best customer services business available, all of a sudden changed for the worse. In a study by the University of Albany, they figured out that when people are treated to feel like they are in control, they’ll do a better job at work. This discovery led to a new way Starbucks trains its employees. Once they implemented new habits, their service improved. It is this type of research that can help other companies become successful.

The Power of Habit is one book that everyone should pick up. Because let’s face it, we all have habits that we’d like to change and the information Duhigg provides is priceless. As in the case of Starbucks looking to improve their business, many other professionals would love to create new patterns to be more productive at work. If you need extra help to learn how to do so, our Personal Productivity Course teaches you strategies and offers tips that are sure to create new habits. Click to learn more!

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