What I’m reading
Last week I received an email with the subject line, “What’s Your Keystone Habit?” The email was from Mario Morino and I read a little, noting the book he mentioned was The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and saving it in my “To Read” file. Later that day, Amazon sent me an email, naming The Power of Habit as one of the top business books for the month. Then I heard in separate emails that Jim Collins and Daniel Pink, two of my favorite authors, are fans of the book and are quoted as saying, “Sharp, provocative and useful” and “You’ll never look at yourself, your organization or your world quite the same way,” regarding their support of the book.
Finally, my colleague, John Gest, recommended The Power of Habit as a way of learning about the habits of excellence and the brain science behind them. With this quartet of leaders recommending a book, I opened my “To Read” file, finished Mario’s article and quickly ordered The Power of Habit.
And it’s a really good read, with lots of examples. Here are a few of my takeaways:
- We are definitely creatures of habit. The first part of the book focused on the role habits, both personal and professional, play.
- Duhigg suggests that the “habit loop” consists of cue, routine and reward and with the manipulation of the loop, we can modify and even change, our habits. Over time, this loop becomes more automatic and a habit forms. The more ingrained a habit is, the less the brain has to work as a decision maker and can divert its energy to other tasks.
- Habits then, are at the root of how we behave, much like memory and reason. We might not remember how we began the experiences that have created our habits, but once these habits are developed, they really influence how we act and live, often without our conscious realization.
- There are particular habits called “keystone habits,” and these help initiate a domino effect that can impact significant areas in our lives. Keystone habits start a process that, over time, transforms everything.
The second part of the book looks at habits from an organizational perspective. The author suggests that the formation of habits and routines within organizations is unavoidable. And leaders make deliberate decisions, both good and bad, that shape the habits and ultimately define the organization’s culture.
Finally, the last section of the book reviews the broader importance of habits in social movements, with a leader building on new habits that define the movement’s sense of identity.
Given the science behind the study of habit, Duhigg suggests that habits can change but that change requires intent. People, he says, have the power to transform habits by focusing on the patterns that shape every aspect of our lives. If you are interested, as I am, in becoming more aware of habits and their power, this book provides many great examples of how other people and companies are working towards intentionality.
Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D.