“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
The title “The Power of Habit” (by Charles Duhigg) sounds good – but what new could there be to read and learn about habits?
Turns out that there is a lot of new thinking about this topic in this wonderful book! And the book covers not only habits in our personal lives, but also in our work environments – and even in society.
Duhigg starts with an story related to habits, and then gets straight to the ‘science’ of habits. While on the surface this part might seem simplistic and perhaps obvious, upon further reading, one realizes that there is both depth to the theory shared, and also ample supporting scientific research. Duhigg to his credit has done extensive research on this topic, including having reviewed the latest relevant scientific papers.
Duhigg then moves on to examples, and the various real life stories shared are often both remarkable and inspiring. Duhigg also explains some related topics, such as ‘keystone habits’, which are very interesting concepts.
The next section extends the discussion to the workplace – a topic most books on this habits don’t cover. Once again, the author starts with a fascinating and thought-provoking example of how a new CEO transformed the entire company by starting with a focus on a single habit (and a surprising choice for this initial habit!).
The third and last section of this book discusses habits and society in general. This is the one part of the book which I thought could have been better. While some parts of this section are good and insightful, other examples provided here are not that compelling. Too many pages are spent on this topic. I would have preferred if less time had been spent on this topic and more details would have been covered on the earlier topics.
The book leaves the reader with at least two clear takeaways. The first is a solid framework which can be used to start, change, or stop, any habit. The second is that any such change is not simple. It will take a lot of determination persistence, and patience – one is reminded of Edison’s famous quotation on genius being “one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” This same ‘ninety-nine percent perspiration’ will be needed here, but, as this book demonstrates well, it can be done, and it is well worth the effort.
Overall, this is a very good book which has a lot of practical application for our own selves, our work environment, our society, and other areas such as instilling proper habits in children and teenagers. What makes this book a gem is the fascinating stories that he includes which features individuals and companies such as Starbucks, Michael Phelps, Martin Luther King Jr., and Alcoa.
I’m personally now testing what I learned – hope to see some positive results soon!
Rating: four out of five stars
(thanks to my brother Sundeep for suggesting this book)