Book Review: “The Power of Habit – Why we do what we do in business”

by Charles Duhigg, c.2012, Random House

If there’s one thing in the world that everyone can count on, it’s that you’ll be in your office by a certain time each morning.

You get there via the same route, without fail. That’s, of course, after you get up at the same time each day and eat the same basic breakfast. And why change? Your habits have served you well, and it’s nice not to have to think much about them.

So is it possible to prod others into similarly good habits? How can a visit to your business become a part of your customers’ routine? Read “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg and find out.

Do you remember brushing your teeth this morning?

Chances are you don’t because you’ve gotten into the habit of brushing every day. Recent research indicates that over 40 percent of our daily actions are done by habit rather than by decision, which is why you probably don’t even recall grabbing the toothpaste. A part of your brain kicked in and did it automatically, since doing so — using a “habit loop” — saves effort by not having to think so hard.

In making habit loops, says Duhigg, there are three steps. First, your brain looks for a cue, something at least a little familiar that it can use as a hint for behavior when presented with an action. Next, it moves into a comforting routine. Lastly, it’s rewarded, which helps you remember how pleasurable that action was. Voila: your brain “stops fully participating” in the decision to perform that task, and you’ve got a habit.

“Habits are powerful, but delicate,” says Duhigg. Changing them can be done, but not without conscious effort.

But how can you construct a new habit in other people?

Create a craving, says Duhigg. Craving is “what powers the habit loop.” Then find the cue and define the reward. The routine will fall into place.

So you’ve managed to give up those vices you cherished, and it wasn’t easy. There were times, actually, that you really didn’t think you’d make it. “The Power of Habit” tells you why.

By pulling together an abundance of anecdotes to illustrate the research he presents, author Charles Duhigg has created a book that’s as wonderfully satisfying as that first morning coffee and as enjoyable as playing on the internet for an hour. We’re alternately entertained, then schooled on how our minds work, even when damaged. It’s also quite amazing (and unsettlingly eerie) to see how big businesses use our habits to guide us into purchasing.

Definitely, there’s a lot to learn from this book — I couldn’t get enough of those stories because the possibilities are so exciting — but Duhigg makes everything accessible and useable for habit-makers and habit-breakers alike. Much like a handful of potato chips, in fact, this book is hard to resist.

If you’re looking to change the way things are done and habits are made, this book is what you need. “The Power of Habit” is no nail-biter, but it’s got advice you can count on.

Book reviewer Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 and never goes anywhere without a book.