Book: The Power of Habit

“The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg

Romans 7:15, 19 NLT 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. … 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.

How many times have you read this section of Romans and completely identified with Paul’s frustration?  If you are anything like me, it’s every time.

I don’t say this to justify my actions but, as they say, I am admitting that in some areas of my life I have or do struggle and that is the beginning of change.  I have made changes in many areas of my life over the years and when I look at where I am today compared to 10-15-20 years ago, I am so thankful for the people (too many to list them all here) who have helped me overcome many things in my life, often without even knowing they did, or possibly, that I knew they were helping me.

When I read the description of this book a while ago I thought it would be a book worth reading.  Recently, I finally asked my local library (thanks again) to see if they could get a copy of it for me to read before I purchased it (a bit of habit control I’m working on).

After reading it, I think I better understand what Paul was writing about—the frustration of doing some things that I really don’t want to do and not doing some things that I really want to do.  Of course he was writing about spiritual matters but the same is true for other areas of life as well.

Duhigg offers a very readable explanation of what habits are, how they are formed, how they put us in an “automatic” action mode, how some people use them to manipulate others, and how we can choose to change them.  He doesn’t offer a step-by-step plan for how to change specific habits but “a framework for understanding how habits work and a guide to experiment with how they might change.”

One of the key takeaways from this book, that we can change our habits if we want to, is summarized in this quote.

Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy.  But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped. (288)

Alistair Begg has used this quote in his sermons (I don’t remember the specific one) that I believe applies to this topic as well.

Sow a thought; Reap an action.
Sow an action; Reap a habit.
Sow a habit; Reap a character.
Sow a character; Reap a destiny.

Remember: destiny is a fluid thing until you die.  Once your dead, that’s it.  Until then, if you want to make changes in your life, you can!  God wants you to have an abundant, joyful life, even in the midst of your everyday struggles.  Acknowledge and seek to honor Him in your life and you will find that change is possible.

The chapters include the following.

Prologue: The Habit Cure

Part One: The Habit 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

  1. Keystone Habits, Or The Ballad of Paul O’Neill: Which Habits Matter Most
  2. Starbucks and the Habit of Success: When Willpower Becomes Automatic
  3. The Power of Crisis: How Leaders Create Habits Through Accident and Design
  4. How Target Know What You Want Before You Do: When Companies Predict (and Manipulate) Habits

Part Three: The Habits of Societies

  1. Saddleback Church and The Montgomery Bus Boycott: How Movements Happen
  2. The Neurology of Free Will: Are We Responsible for Our Habits?

Afterword: Some Things Learned About Weight Loss, Smoking, Procrastination, and Teaching

  • Appendix
    • A Reader’s Guide to Using These Ideas
    • Acknowledgments
    • A Note on Sources
    • Notes
    • Index

There have been scores of books (popular/self-help and academic) and articles written on every sort of habit, how they function, and how to be successful at changing them.  In this book, Duhigg makes some of this research accessible to the average, non-academic reader so that they too can make sense of the how and why of their habits.

This empowers people to take back control of their lives if they feel like they are out of control.  It also helps people better understand they can make changes in their life if they want to, especially when everything and everyone around them are telling them they can’t.

Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business. Random House Trade Paperback Edition. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2014. Print. [Amazon] [Alibris] [Barnes and Noble]

Note: If you are looking for something that offers a more concrete plan for making habit changes, you might consider the following or something like it.

Birkedahl, Nonie. The Habit Control Workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, 1990. Print. [Amazon] [Alibris] [Barnes and Noble]

Disclaimer: I don’t claim to be a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist and my remarks here should not be regarded as anything other than some advice that I have learned over the years.  If you have a particular habit that you are having difficulty changing, you should consult a professional and/or support group in the subject area to aid you in the process.  There is nothing wrong with this and it shouldn’t be seen as a weakness.  Paul in Galatians 6 writes that we should bear one another’s burdens.  God wants us to help each other.  Habits, good and bad, are learned over time and sometimes we need help to form new ones.  So ask for help if you need it!