The Power of Habit – Book Review

This is a great book about the power of habit and what we can do to change our habits in business, life, and society. The book is divided into three sections, first focusing on the individual, then companies, and finally societies.

The first three chapters are my favorite, and really make up the heart of the book.

Chapter 1, “The Habit Loop” explains exactly what a habit is. Some estimate, according to the author, that habits make up 40% of our daily routine. Favorite quote from this chapter: “This process within our brains is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which behavior to use. The there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is the reward . . .” (19)

Chapter 2, “The Craving Brain” includes the story of Pepsodent and lays out a simple formula for creating new habits in others. “First, find a simple and obvious cue. Second, clearly define the reward.” (37) The rest of the chapter will fill you in on the missing part of this formula and you will learn how Febreze went from near bust to a product bringing in over a billion dollars a year.

Chapter 3, “The Golden Rule of Habit Change” is my favorite chapter. In this chapter you will learn what part of the habit loop to modify and how you should go about doing it. You will also learn how Tony Dungee reinvented the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts by instilling habits into his teams. Very good information, if you read one chapter in this book, make sure it is this one. Of interest to everyone, from smokers to businessmen to nail-biters to football coaches.

The remaining two sections of the book were not quite as strong as the first. They consist mainly of anecdotes and examples of how companies and societies (and a church) changed habits in others successfully. They are worth reading, but not as good as the first third of the book. The Starbucks story of instilling willpower in their employees and the story of Rosa Parks and Saddleback church were the most interesting.

All in all, this book is definitely worth picking up. I was a little disappointed by the last couple of sections of the book and thought that one of the anecdotes the author used in the first chapter was overused (same story, same person covered thoroughly in Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything if you have read it). The core of the book that explains what habits are and how to change them make this book a valuable read. Recommended.