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Reading 2012: The Power of Habit

March 15, 2012

In his fascinating book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg explores the science of habits inside and out. A combination of neuroscience, sociology, and psychology, the book looks at dimensions and dynamics of habits that include brain abnormalities, habit training, and how others effect our habits.

Using the habit as key, Duhigg unlocks how an overeating, chain-smoking, spendthrift woman is transformed into an marathon-running, non-smoking, hard-working woman a mere two years later. The same key shows why a man with serious brain-damage was able to live functionally for nearly 15 years as a daily amnesiac. And more personally, why we ourselves do certain things and how we can train ourselves to discover how we can use habits as a helpful tool.

Duhigg organizes the books into three divisions of habits: the habits of individuals, organizations, and societies, making up 9 chapters:

Part One: The Habits of Individuals
1. The Habit Loop: How Habits Work
2. The Craving Brain: How to Create New Habits
3. The Golden Rule of Habit Change: Why Transformation Occurs

Part Two: The Habits of Successful Organizations
4. Keystone Habits, or the Ballad of Paul O’Neill: Which Habits Matter Most
5. Starbucks and the Habit of Success: When Willpower Becomes Automatic
6. The Power of a Crisis: How Leaders Create Habits Through Accident and Design
7. How Target Knows What You Want Before You Do: When Companies Predict (and Manipulate) Habits

Part Three: The Habits of Societies
8. Saddleback Church and the Montgomery Bus Boycott: How Movements Happen
9. The Neurology of Free Will: Are We Responsible for Our Habits?

Readers who have enjoyed books such as Nurture Shock, Emotional Intelligence, Spark, Blink, or other similar “the new science of ___” titles will likely greatly appreciate The Power of Habit. But so might anyone curious about how habits form, how to change their own habits, or wondering why they can’t seem to make or break new or old habits.

I began this book after realizing I wished to add a few more books to this year’s reading that are on the current bestseller lists (currently #8 on Amazon’s list). Of course, this is a subject that already fascinates me, so it was an enjoyable read.

The author discusses habits in this brief, but interesting video:


Reading this with a Christian worldview as my filter, I continued to think of Romans 7 as I read, particularly verses 21 to 25:

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Certainly, understanding habits from the perspective of the book can help us make changes. But we won’t arrive at perfection anytime soon or apart from our final perfection in Christ at the end of the age. There is a lot of food for thought in this book for the Christian who holds this view, most of it helpful and perspective expanding.

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  • David Crabb March 7, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Wow. I just saw this book highlighted by NPR about a week ago and thought it looked fascinating. Glad to see your thoughts on it! I’ll plan to pick it up.

    • Keren March 12, 2012 at 10:26 am

      It seems Duhigg is getting a lot of publicity over the book, and likely rightly so. Daniel is reading it now. He thinks it will be one of his top books for the year.

  • Johanna March 9, 2012 at 6:57 am

    Oh my…this book looks right up my ally. Now on my list. I hope the library has it! 🙂

    • Keren March 12, 2012 at 10:32 am

      I thought of you as I started into it and while reading it–especially after some of your recent posts on habit. 🙂 Hope your library has it–ours seems to be lacking a lot of newer books.

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