The Power of Habit - Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
Charles Duhigg
Contributed by Roseanne Meinecke

The New York Times. "Charles Duhigg." N.p., 2018. Web. 8 Aug. 2018.

The author begins the book review by asking four broad guiding questions. The author asks questions regarding how habits work, why people continue doing self-destructive things, whether habit development can cause positive change to someone, and how one can form good habits.  This is a good approach to a review because it prepares the readers thus making them focused on answering these broad questions. This is the first step the author takes to simplify the book. The author then states that the book can be used by someone who wants to develop good habits. This is indeed true because the content of the book narrows down to explaining how one can substitute old undesirable habits for new but desirable habits. Therefore, the author of this review does well to state the purpose so as to motivate readers, and make it clear what they expect from the review article.

The author simplifies the habit loop by stating that it is comprised of a cue, routine, and reward. The cue is the situational trigger that is based on reward, the routine is the physical, or emotional action you take to get the reward while the reward is the satisfaction that pushes one to follow the routine. The process of adopting a new habit is then presented in a simple schematic diagram that shows how the cues push one to follow a routine so as to get the satisfaction involved. Therefore, the routine is emphasized as the best leverage point where an action yields the best outcome as far as behavior change is concerned. The author stated that “if you know why you take action then you can substitute it for something else” that yield similar satisfaction. This is indeed true because it is easier to change the routine and get the same satisfaction, rather than trying to avoid the trigger or suppress the urge for reward. For example, once a cigarette addict has known that he takes cigarettes for body stimulation, he can substitute cigarettes for coffee since both cigarettes, and coffee stimulate the body but coffee is less detrimental to health. The review has also mentioned that habits have had positive impacts on organizations such as Alcoa, and Target, but has failed to describe those impacts. To offer inspirations to readers, and give them a clear picture of the positive impacts habits can have on their organization, it would have been better to describe those impacts in details. At an individual level, the review does well by describing the effects Keystone habit can have.  An example is given with food journaling habit that is capable of producing a chain of positive benefits in the life of an individual, including but not limited to, improving diet, improving exercise and making one stop taking junk food.  The author does well by rating the book as being among the best habit books he had ever read.

Wilson, T.D (2012, March 9). Can’t help myself: ‘The power of habits by Charles Duhigg’. New York Times.

This review focuses on highlighting the main points in the original book, and providing a critique of the arguments put forward in the original book. The review states at the beginning that human beings have the ability to consciously think, reflect, ponder, and choose the best course of action, but are also fortunate to have the ability to automatically do things without consciously giving them a thought. It is true that human beings are fortunate having ability to do things habitually because the brain needs rest, and if put to continuously think it would collapse. Habits are formed when people do something repeatedly over time, for example speaking a foreign language, or playing the guitar. While habits are beneficial to human beings, some habits are considered bad, and harmful to the wellbeing of an individual. People struggle to quit those harmful habits, for example, smoking, and excessive drinking of alcohol. To this end, it is evident that the review has begun from a broad perspective, and narrowed down to the purpose of the review (and indeed the purpose of the original book) which is to explain how one can quit bad habits, and develop new desirable ones. Even if the review has not mentioned explicitly the purpose of the text, this approach makes it simpler for the reader to understand the text, and eventually discover its purpose as they continue reading to the end.

The author mentions that freedom from addiction results from understanding that habits can change. This is not a reasonable statement because you can understand that habits can change but still struggle with addiction because you don’t know how to proceed with changing habits. The habits emanate from cues which drives one to follow a routine to get rewards. The review, however, disputes this argument by stating that there exists a diversity of habits, and therefore one framework is not sufficient to be used as a guide to quitting those habits. Some behaviors result from chemical addiction, and thus require chemical treatment, while some are habitual because they comply with the social norms. For example, shaking hands is a habit that obeys the norms of some societies around the world. It is not entirely true that the framework (of cue, routine, and reward) does not apply to these two cases because the reason one forms the habit that obeys the norm is the reward of being accepted by the society that observes those norms.

Maugh, T.H. (2012). ‘The power of habits by Charles Duhigg’. Los Angeles Times.

The author uses the examples of companies that have succeeded through the use of habits, so as to demonstrate the importance of habit formation. For example, the manager of Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) simply addressed employee safety, and the company began to make profits, and escaped its possible collapse. By addressing the employees’ safety (and reducing risks, and accidents) the manager of Alcoa simply applied the concept of Keystone habit. One simple habit change was capable of resulting in a chain of other benefits to the company. This is particularly true considering the fact that by addressing employees’ safety they were able to suggest new ways of improving work efficiency, they were motivated to work hard, and the company began making more profit. Other applications such as advertisement of pepsodent are also given.  Giving such a detailed explanation of the positive impact of habit change is inspirational to the readers while it also gives them practical ways in which they can apply habit change to solve their problems in the society.

Habits can be beneficial for example turning right off a highway while going to a workplace in the morning, while others are harmful, for example, turning to drug abuse when faced with stress. The author also states that many of our activities as human beings are based on habits even though we may not be aware. This is true because we basically repeat the same things every day, for example, taking tea in the morning thus forming a habit. It is indeed important that our activities are habitual such that we do not have to think of the same procedures every now, and then. These activities that have turned out to be our habits are based on a simple concept of cues, routines, and rewards.

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