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The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg



Highlights: Finding out how Target knows that a woman is pregnant before her family does!
Synopsis: Duhigg gives examples of how habits work and why they can make our lives better, but also backs up each instance with science that’s easy to understand.


A scientific approach that's readable, entertaining, and fun.


This book isn't an instructional manual, and might disappoint those looking for a how-to.

Posted January 13, 2014 by

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The Power of Habit

With all your New Year’s resolutions fresh in your mind, you might want to read Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. This nonfiction read isn’t exactly a ‘self help book’ for making habits stick, but after absorbing the stories and examples that the author gives from real life situations, the reader will know a lot more about how to make positive changes in his or her own life.

The Remarkable Influence of Habit

The book starts at a research facility where a team of neurologists are talking to a test subject about changes she made in her life. The woman told her remarkable story to the team, describing what her life used to be like: she was a chain smoker who was out of shape, $100,000 in debt, and couldn’t hold down a job. When her husband left her for another woman, she took a trip to Cairo in an effort to get out of her rut and because she had always wanted to see the pyramids. After that trip, she turned her life around completely using just one change. She looked ten years younger than her old photos, was in excellent shape, quit smoking, and was in her thirty-ninth month at a graphic design firm. The scientists were convinced that the woman had used what they called a “keystone habit” to cause all the wonderful changes in her life. The Power of Habit continues to give examples and back up each instance with science, providing theories or proven facts that provide insight into the human brain.

Organizations and Corporations

Habits are powerful tools when it comes to running a corporation, training employees, and tracking consumer data, Charles Duhigg explains in the book’s second part. When the new CEO of Alcoa announced at a press conference that he was making safety the biggest priority, stock plummeted as investors feared for the company’s profit margin. Proving them wrong, the company made incredible improvements because the new chief executive instituted not only new safety procedures, but improved methods of communication between departments to improve overall safety. The chapter that explains why Alcoholics Anonymous is such an incredible success will surprise you and you won’t be able to stop reading the chapter called “How Target Knows What You Want Before You Do,” which explains the science behind predictive consumerism.

Habits that Change

You don’t need to know about Starbucks employee training procedures to guess that they contribute to the incredible success of the business as a whole, but did you know that becoming a Starbucks employee can change your life? Duhigg explains that the Starbucks training procedures teach something called “self-regulation,” and explains why it’s so important. A study that was intended to measure and identify this quality in children puts them in a room with a giant marshmallow, promising several more giant marshmallows if they can manage to avoid eating the treat while left alone. Not stopping there, the researchers got back in touch with those kids who managed to keep from eating the marshmallow, finding that they not only did better in school because of this increased willpower, but also held on to friendships, and were able to “cope with important problems” more effectively than those who did not have measurable willpower.

Empowering and Uplifting

The beauty of Duhigg’s approach in this book is that he’s not just giving examples of how habits work and why they can make our lives better, but he backs up each instance with science that’s easy to understand. Whether you’d like to introduce some positive habits into your own life, are looking for a scientific book about the human brain, or would just like to read about some incredible human beings who made a difference in their own lives and in the lives of others, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is a stimulating and entertaining read.


What’s one habit you have that you wish you could change?

Lauren V. Bryant

Having studied library and information sciences in a graduate program at San Jose State University, Lauren is a professional librarian who has worked in school and public libraries. She currently works at a public library where she helps the public get e-books and other downloadables on their devices. Check out Lauren's website, http://www.LaurentheLibrarian.com/ for more book related articles and content. Check out all my articles.


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