Get Yourself Into the Power of Habit

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power of habitA year or so ago, I sat in a seminar where the instructor said that we spend most of our days and our lives on autopilot.  “You think that you are making choices and decisions, but you aren’t – your brain is.”  I knew he was right.

As much as I wanted to believe I was a highly evolved human being, I knew that deep inside, I was mostly nothing more than a stimulus-response mechanism.  I mean just the other day I got in my car, I showed up at my destination and couldn’t remember what happened in between.  Whaaaat?

You’ve had that happen, too?

Of course you have.

And this is why my latest read will interest you. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and in Business by Charles Duhigg (@cduhigg) was recommended to me by a friend and I purchased it on Kindle.  It took me a while to read it. That’s because Duhigg’s writing is so good that I didn’t want to miss a word.

Why I Wanted to Know More About Habits – And You Will Too

As a marketing professional, I’m all about habits.  If I can get my audience to create a habit that includes a purchase behavior every time they see or hear a trigger from my marketing campaign – I’m a happy camper.  And this is why I snapped up this book.  You will want to read this book for so much more than that.

From a personal perspective, The Power of Habit contains all kinds of insights and strategies that you can use to see behind your brain’s own veil or curtain.  You’ll begin to understand how habits are formed and how to recognize that a habitual behavior is at play and how to change the habits you don’t like and create habits you do like.

One of the best examples in the book comes from the author himself. He talks about having the habit of getting up from his desk at a certain time of the day, going to the cafeteria and grabbing a cookie.  At some point he decided that the cookie component of this habit wasn’t doing him much good and he looked for ways to change this habit.  He started by tracking his day to look for specific triggers.

For example, was it a specific time of the day that he had to have a cookie?  Did an event occur during the day that triggered his need to get up and have a cookie?  And so on.  With his data in hand, he had a clearer understanding of what triggered his need for a cookie and when the trigger occurred. He was able to replace getting a cookie by simply walking around and saying hello to fellow workers.  What he needed was a break. He didn’t need a cookie.

There are also plenty of business and organizational examples in the book as well.  Like the author’s example, all of them involve intense and dedicated observations of the environment. It’s about watching what happens and what the causes and effects are that surround the behavior you want to change.

A Little About Charles Duhigg

After reading the author’s personal habit-changing story, I remember hearing him on NPR telling that same story.  Maybe you’ll remember him too.  Duhigg is a writer for the New York Times and has written several popular business books, reported on the “The iEconomy,” and has contributed to several other award winning books.

All you need to know from that is that he’s a fantastic writer.  And you will enjoy his writing.  You’ll be engaged and you might even take as long to read this book as I did – just because you enjoy his style.

Duhigg didn’t write this book as part of an assignment – it actually came out of his own curiosity.  He had heard of an army major in Iraq who had been analyzing video tapes of riots.  After watching hours of footage, he spotted a pattern.  In each case, there was a person moving around the crowded marketplace – at the fringes of the crowds.  At some point, this person would throw something.  A riot would ensure.  The solution was to keep food vendors out of the plaza so that crowds wouldn’t form.  The food vendors caused crowds, crowds attracted trouble makers and trouble makers triggered riots.  There you have it – a book is born.

Can The Power of Habit Change Your Life?

If you’re a business book junkie like me – you’ll love reading this book just because it’s fun to read. It will give you insights into the human condition.  If you’re looking for a more practical approach on changing habits such as how to structure your life or a program – this is not it.  What you’ll get from reading The Power of Habit, is an understanding of what to look for and how to track your triggers. You will have to do the rest on your own.

Overall, you’ll find The Power of Habit an enjoyable read. You may also pick up some useful habit changing skills that can benefit your business and your life.

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Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."

3 Reactions
  1. I’ve always been fascinated by the connection between habits and systems for small businesses. I look forward to reading the book.

  2. Martin Lindeskog

    Ivana: Does the author relate to Aristotle’s insight on the power of habits?

  3. Great review, Ivana. There truly is massive power in habit. Once you’ve developed a positive and effecetive habit, things that seem mountain like will seem like an ant hill.

    Thanks for sharing your take on this book; added it to my “to read” list.


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