The Power of Habit – “Why we do what we do and how to change” Charles Duhigg

Headline: Game Changing Read

What’s it all about?


This is a fascinating exploration of how we are guided and controlled by our habits but also how, if we understand how our habits are formed and controlled, we can use this to our advantage.

Charles Duhigg masterfully inter-weaves real-life accounts with the science behind our habits.

In each section, there are a couple human interest stories which draw you in keep the pages turning. Once you are invested in the story he brings in the science that applies to this particular situation before bringing you back to complete the story. As the book progresses ideas are built upon and drawn together to give a full and colourful picture of the influence habits have on us in both the workplace and personal lives.

The pace of the book is just right to ensure the read is really getting to the bottom of the ideas without labouring the point.

The examples in the book range from individual people to large corporations. For example, the man who lost his short-term memory so if he was asked where the kitchen was, he did not know, but when he was hungry, he had no problem going and getting himself something to eat.

To how tackling habits and behaviour in a hospital changed it from being a combative and low performing department to a productive and collaborative one.

How did this book impact me?

I read this book last Christmas and the chapters on keystone habits and feedback loops really caught my attention. Without giving you any spoilers, I started to look at some of my many bad habits, for example, rushing out of the house in the morning and then needing 3 cups of tea and biscuits to get me through the morning or reacting to every email that popped up on my screen. These are things in the past I had promised to be better at but without any real plan for how. Once I identified the keystone habit and created a habit loop (they will make sense when you read the book), these changes suddenly became achievable, even easy!

I am not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions, but I do always start the New Year with good intentions… that rarely last more than 2 weeks. 2018 has seen an improvement on this. That is not to say I don’t have any bad habits, far from it! But I would definitely recommend this book (and frequently have!) to anyone who is looking to make some incremental changes in their lives.

Any limitations to the book?

This book was first published in 2012 and whilst the principals, ideas and research are still very valid, a couple of the examples felt a bit dated. For example, the information about Target and how they monitor our shopping habits and then send targeted marketing and coupons to us to influence our spending habits. I suspect when this was written, this was a significant insight, but these practices are now so commonplace and transparent that it felt a bit over dramatised in the book. Charles Duhigg is an American author and so a large proportion of the book is based around American examples. There is a fascinating insight into the London underground which he regularly calls the subway! These Americanisms are not over-powering and the overall writing style was very smooth.

About the Author

Charles Duhigg is the author of 2 New York Times best-selling books, The Power of Habit and Smarter Faster Better. His collaborative work on a series of articles about Apple and other tech companies won him the Pulitzer Prize of Explanatory Reporting in 2013.

He is currently a columnist and senior editor for the New York Times.

Other books like this:

If you read and enjoy The Power of Habit was can also recommend:

  • Black Box Thinking – Matthew Syed
  • The Happiness Advantage – Shawn Achor
  • Start with Why – Simon Sinek

All are available in both print and audio forms.