When it comes to success, I am a big believer that your habits play a major role in how successful you become. With that in mind, I decided for October PropelHer’s Book Club would discuss The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. The Power of Habit claims to help you understand how habits work and with that knowledge you should be able to work out how you can change your habits for the better.
The Power of Habit is broken down into three sections: The Habits of Individuals, The Habits of Success Organizations and The Habits of Societies. My main interest was in The Habits of Individuals as I really wanted to understand how habits work.
According to the book, habits are formed in loops. There is a cue, a routine and a reward. The cue acts as a trigger so every time your body becomes aware of the cue you will automatically follow through with the routine and the reward. Once habits are formed it this process will happen virtually on autopilot. Charles states that “unless you deliberately fight a habit – unless you find new routines – the pattern will unfold automatically”. Now this has consequences good and bad, depending on the habit and a major problem is that “your brain can’t tell the difference between bad and good habits”. Therefore, it is your responsibility to make sure you form good habits.
All habits aren’t created the same. According to Charles, “The habits that matter most are the ones that, when they start to shit, dislodge and remake other patterns”. These are called keystone habits and by changing one of those it can have a ripple effect and help you to change other habits. A common keystone habit is exercise. Charles adds that the most important keystone habit is willpower. Before reading the book I had never thought of willpower being a habit so found this point intriguing.
When it comes to changing a habit there is a golden rule – use the same cue, provide the same reward but change the routine in between. Therefore, to change any habit you first need to be aware of what the cue is and what the reward is. Only once you have established those two things will you be able to start changing your bad habits.
Through the book, the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) society was explored to see how it was able to help people change a very strong habit – drinking alcohol. One of the things researching the AA revealed was that “if you want to change a habit, you must find an alternative routine, and your odds of success go up dramatically when you commit to changing as part of a group”. This reinforces why programmes like Weight Watchers also works. It is another example of where you are changing a habit (eating or exercise), but using the power of committing to the group in order to help you stick to the new habits.
In The Habits of Societies Charles discusses how the Civil Rights movement happened through the lens of social habits. Apparently, change is created through peer pressure but whilst many people imagine that peer pressure is strongest between close friends that isn’t true. Weak ties are just as important as strong ties. This is partially because with close friends you feel you can let yourself down, embarrass yourself, be truthful etc. Whereas with a weak tie you are much more likely to want to be perceived a certain way.
For a movement to happen there needs to be a number of habits – “They rely on social patterns that begin as the habits of friendship, grow through the habits of communities, and are sustained by new habits the change participants sense of self”. This combination will help a movement to grow to a self-sustaining size where it is bigger than the person who initiated it in the beginning.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Understanding the science behind the habits was fascinating and helped me to understand how I could change my habits in the future. What surprised me was how much I enjoyed the chapters on successful organizations and societies. I was absolutely fascinated by Chapter 7: How Target Knows What You Want Before You Do and how they could identify from what a woman was buying whether she was pregnant. In one instance before a woman had even told her father. Scary stuff!
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand how habits are formed, how we can change them and how you can use habits to make you more successful in life and business.
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Want to know more about habits? Why not buy a copy of THE POWER OF HABIT for yourself?
Not a big reader? It is also available on audible – access 30-day free trial here.