The Power of Habit By Charles Duhigg : Book Review

Consider this question, Which leg do you put in first while wearing a pair of trousers? I don’t know about you, but I put my right leg in first and I know this, that if I put my left in first, I’ll probably fall over. This is one of the many habits that we have formed ever since we have come out of our mothers’ womb.

A habit, as defined in the American Journal of Psychology is a more or less a fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience.

Let’s face it, some of our habits are doing us more bad than good. It is high time we start taking responsibility for them and doing something to change them. It seems that Charles Duhigg, through his book – The Power of Habit – has made our lives a lot easier by showing us a path to recognize the bad ones and alter them.

The book is divided into three sections going from micro to macro. The book starts off with a brief mention on how habits emerge within individual lives. It is here that the author explains the Habit Loop (Cue-Routine-Reward).


If you could inculcate just this point from the book, you could get rid of almost all of your unwanted habits. The author uses several examples to explain the neurology of habit formation.  My favourite example was how an ad man pushed the habit of tooth brushing from an obscure practice to a national obsession in the United States.

In the second section, the author goes a step further and explains the habits of successful corporates. Corporates, like individuals have several practices – good and bad – which go a long way in determining the success of a company. Among the many examples, I was particularly moved by the one wherein a retired government bureaucrat went on to take Aloca to new heights just by altering the core corporate values and habits of the organization.  The Michael Phelps example wherein he is described to be carrying out a set routine as a habit before his events is also very detrimental in making the reader understand the importance of habit formation.

The transition from the micro to the macro is very smooth and Duhigg has ensured that he takes you a step further only after you have understood the current and previous steps. The author in the third section goes on to talk about the habits of societies. The Saddleback Church and the Montgomery Bus Boycott movement shows exactly how movements are driven from a single person to the whole community. Duhigg has very beautifully explained what might have been the mental state of the people of the community which led them to respond to the situations in the way they did.

Duhigg has saved the best for the last. It is at the end that he provides the reader with a four-step process to change any habit which is based on the Habit Loop we talked about earlier.

However, in his words, “It’s not that formulas don’t exist. The problem is that there isn’t one formula for changing habits. There are thousands.”

We only become what we do and what we do repeatedly is what is called – Habit.

— Rishabh Agrawal


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