The Power of Habit: Book Review

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg was listed on "most popular" on my library's overdrive for e-books, so I read it because of its "bestseller" status and because I've been more into self-help/self-entrepreneurship recently. It is an interesting mix of historical storytelling, psychological analysis, and personal interviews to explore human behavior. From Michael Phelps becoming an Olympic Gold swimmer to pregnant women shopping at Target, Duhigg scientifically examines how good [and bad] habits develop and how we can change our habits.

Everybody can relate to this book because we all have habits: brushing our teeth, listening to music, shopping at certain stores (i.e. my weekly Costco trip), etc. Duhigg provides a basic framework on how to identify our habits, and explore ways to use habits to implement positive change, whether on an individual level or a societal level.

One part of the book that stood out to me was learning how changing habits can cause movements in society. I learned about the Civil Rights movement as part of my public school curriculum, but never went in depth as Duhigg did in his analysis of habits; specifically how Rosa Parks was the perfect person connected to enough people [and Dr. King] at the right level, which led to the social habit of nonviolent protest, setting the stage for the law to combat discrimination in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Another legal intersection was the discussion of habit being a defense to murder vs habit causing a gambling addiction, and the US justice system punishing a gambler "more" even though the neurological basis is the same. (Studying of economics has made me risk-averse to gambling and is preventing me from being a pathological gambler, thank god.) Duhigg poses some great legal ethical dilemmas whether the law really does make sense and perhaps the study of criminal justice can improve if we incorporate the study of "habit."

My main take-aways are to start with small good habits, and to try to be more aware of my bad habits. To take care of my physical health, I'm going to try implementing a morning habit of weighing myself by setting a scale near my [en-suite] bathroom door. Hopefully this will lead to habits of eating healthier and working out more. Some bad habits of mine are being distracted by the internet or social media and failing to consider other people's emotions. To try being less distracted, my plan is to change my routine of checking my phone or find rewards for not going on social media. My lack of empathy habit is harder to objectively work on, but I'm going to try keeping it mind more often as I make daily decisions or communicate with people a certain way.

Overall, if you've read Malcolm Gladwell's books, enjoy reading about human behavior, or have a general interest in self-improvement, I would recommend the Power of Habit.


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