The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg


Let's start with the biggest problem with "The Power Of Habit" - its name. It sounds suspiciously like one of those self-help type books that give you wishy-washy solutions to difficult problems. Habits are deeply human and as anyone who has tried to change a habit will tell you, it's incredibly hard to pull yourself out of a habit. So when a book comes along talking about habits, with a title that sounds a little bit like some of the books you would not be seen dead with, you are allowed to be a tad suspicious. 

Except that The Power of Habit is actually a reasonably down-to-earth and useful book. Here's why:

1. It's based on scientific research: the book is in that modern breed that aims to bring the current state of scientific thinking on a topic to lay readers like us. This book looks at what habits are (in individuals and in groups of people such as societies and organisations), describes a simple model to study them, and summarises ways to go about creating and changing habits.

2. Stories: like books in the Malcolm Gladwell space, this drives its messages through lots of interesting stories and anecdotes. For instance, the author describes the US Army as perhaps the biggest habit-formation exercise in history, given how much time and money is spent on training troops to automatically and consistently respond uniformly to a variety of situations.

3. Useful strategies: No, there's no silver bullet or Aladdin's lamp to change a habit. It takes hard work, mental willpower, and the ability to recover from slipping back. However, the book does provide a easy-to-use scaffolding with which to build habits.

All in all, we would recommend the Power of Habit, even if you are the perfect human being with nothing to change, even if just out of sheer curiosity. As with other books, always keep your shaker of salt at hand and question every easy conclusion and seek nuance (which books like these often can trade off when they are trying to simplify the complexity of messy, real-world scientific findings).

For more, visit the official website for the book.