09 December 2012 in

We are creatures of habit


Since forty per cent of our behaviour is habitual I found this to be a pretty interesting read. Charles Duhigg takes on the subject of habit in the book titled "The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business."

I found the topic fascinating. We all have patters of behaviour we'd like to change. That change comes from understanding the formation of habits. Duhigg proposes that bad habits can't be completely erased however they can be substituted with other more productive ones. An example he uses is the power of AA in the treatment of alcohol addiction. The twelve steps form a different structure which becomes a habit with time, taking the place of consuming alcohol.

The book is easy to read and the examples are relevant. Although it deals with scientific research and complex behaviours, it's written in a manner that doesn't make you want to fall asleep. It's divided into three sections, the habits of individuals, the habits of successful organizations and the habits of societies. The chapters focusing on individuals were my favourite. The argument is that in order to change a particular behaviour, one must recognize the habit loop. Cue. Routine. Reward. His prescription for breaking habits comes in four steps:

1. Identify the routine
2. Experiment with rewards
3. Isolate the cue
4. Have a plan

The following sections, although interesting, didn't hold my attention as much. The way Target compiles information for use in direct marketing campaigns was intriguing. Our purchasing habits can reveal a lot about us. Although not full proof, Target can determine when a woman becomes pregnant and send coupons directly related to pregnancy. This conclusion is drawn from the specific things purchased by most women, for example lotions in the first trimester. 

I also found Saddleback Church and the Montgomery Bus Boycott story captivating. Duhigg uses it as support for his argument on what makes effective social movements. Of course I am familiar with the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks but this book dedicates a chapter to explain the chain of events that sparked the movement. I appreciated the information and thought the author used the example well to his advantage.

I would have liked to see more focus on bad habits or addictions as those are the ones we are compelled to change. Issues like gambling and alcohol were briefly mentioned, but I felt they didn't get the consideration they deserve.

All in all this is a book worth reading. It's thought provoking, the material is not dry and it might help you gain a better understanding of why you do the things you do. I recommend picking it up.


the outspoken introvert 

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