Why did I choose this book?
I don’t often make the time to read, not because I don’t have the time (because we all do), I simply don’t often prioritising reading. However, I set myself a goal for 2022 to read more and replace a bad habit we all have of scrolling through Instagram, with reading a few pages from a book instead. What better book to read, I thought, than one on forming habits?
“The Power of Habit – Why we do what we do and how to change” by Charles Duhigg is so much more than a ‘self-help’ book; and instead seeks to educate us on the scientific reasoning and simple step-by-step biological breakdown of everything to do with habits.
Duhigg tackles this by showing us the crucial importance of habits from three different angles:
- Neuroscience of habits in individuals
- Using habit theory within successful businesses
- Habits within wider society
The underlying theory throughout the book is that habits are an ongoing loop of three steps: a cue, an action, and a reward. This cycle, when done over time, forms something so powerful that it becomes second-nature, and as we know, incredibly hard to break. The action becomes so cemented in the brain that it can be achieved by the seemingly sub-conscious.
Think of driving for example. When we first learn to drive a manual, the process of ‘foot on the clutch, put into first, a small touch of the acceleration, lift the left foot gently whilst increasing acceleration, find the bite…and go’ is a slow process, one which we have to concentrate so hard on to get right. Now, I’m sure we’re all guilty of spacing out during our daily commute, so much so that we wonder how we actually made it to work.
Duhigg uses some incredibly strong examples of businesses and sports teams who have learnt the habit theory and used it to their advantage to become some of the most successful brands, products and world-famous teams of all-time. One of the real-life examples that is used in the book is the story of how brushing your teeth became a societal expectation.
Before anyone brushed their teeth twice a day, the marketing team behind the first toothpaste brand figured out how to form the habit loop in potential customers. They would ‘cue’ people by highlighting that horrible fuzzy feeling on your teeth, introduce the ‘action’ of brushing, and the reward? The minty fresh taste and smooth surface on your teeth, really making them feel clean.
Now here we are, nearly 80 years later, and this habit is a central part of our daily life. After all, as Duhigg rightly points out, society is nothing more than a group of people following a collection of habits. Going for morning runs, afternoon coffees and Friday night drinks around the world.
Without actually having to encourage the reader to be inspired through mantras or typical self-help anecdotes, you can’t help but feel incredibly inspired by the knowledge that we all have the same chemicals within our brain to achieve great things. All we have to do is find the cue and reward that works for us, and the action in the middle of the ‘habit loop’ can be whatever we want to achieve.