Monday, August 11, 2014

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

     The Power of Habit is the sort of book that could easily be used as a primary source for a comprehensive research project. Duhigg clearly outlines his own findings and observations in the prologue. Throughout the entire book, Duhigg maintains the connections between habit and the individual and how it transfers to the greater scheme of a professional sports team or a general target customer market. The Power of Habit appeals to the reader not only on an academic level, but a personal one: how many people can say that they have never struggled with a bad habit? From biting one's fingernails (as in the case of Mandy) to alcoholism, this book imparts a tremendous amount of knowledge and exhibits countless hours of research and work without excluding the average reader. The reasons that readers have chosen to read this book may vary as greatly as their own habits, but the universality of the subject matter make The Power of Habit versatile and helpful in more ways than one.
       The selection of the main themes in this book - individual habits (Lisa Allen), Tony Dungy and his coaching techniques in professional football, Target's massive data collection techniques (and the motivating factors of collecting that information), the habits of societies (friendships forged by Rosa Parks and various residents of Montgomery, Alabama) - was artfully selected by the author to aid in illustrating just how habits affect the individual and also a mass of people. Throughout the first section of the book, Duhigg uses scientific research to reiterate the fact that habits are ingrained into the human psyche.

Favorite Part:
      As I read each specific example, I heard myself saying, "Ooohhh, that is so good. I am definitely going to mention that as my favorite." I went from being genuinely intrigued by Eugene's story: from the virus that wreaked havoc on his brain to the quote from his wife saying he always wanted to contribute to science in some meaningful way, but he just wasn't able to remember it. I read on, through to the focus on Tony Dungy and his time with the Buccaneers and then with the Colts. I recalled seeing that same calm, mild-mannered mad make his speeches after wining the Super Bowl with the Colts. Again, I thought, This is it! This one struck the chord! Then, lo and behold, I came across the chapter about Target. As a long time retail worker/manager, I found myself reading through ideas and concepts that were all too familiar to me. I, too, had spent a significant part of my personal and professional life gathering data, soliciting feedback about my customers' experience, and crafting meaningful, yet efficient training exercises to equip my staff with the tools they needed to provide customer service so exemplary that the door to my store would look like a revolving door in a flagship store in Herald Square in New York City. Truthfully, the stories of Target and retail merchandising techniques resonated with me on many levels. My favorite part of the book, however, was the author's Afterword. As I read the book, I related many things back to my own life. I constantly thought about how this information was useful and very practical. I did not leave a lot of room to think about the different conclusions and observations that Charles Duhigg had drawn. The idea of this man, who had already spent an immeasurable amount of time crafting an intelligent and well-written book based on deep questions he had about habits and human nature, hind-sighting his experience moved me in a way that none of the other passages did. Simply put, the fact that this book affected the author as much as it influenced its readers is what made this book worth the read. Actually, it was a two-way tie for my favorite part. The mention of OutKast's Hey Ya! distracted me so fully that I was unable to continue with my immediate plans until I fully reminisced the memories made with that song as the background music. I watched the music video. In its entirety. Twice.

       In this study of the power of habit, many of the themes presented in this course were addressed. The course material most obviously presented in this study of habit was the theme of impulsivity. People had created habits, some over an extended period of time, and others nearly immediately. Bad habits seem to arise more quickly and frequently than good habits; and the good habits tend to evolve in reaction to the less desirable/healthy/attractive habits' existence. This book should be assigned to students in some general studies, mandatory lecture. If that plan does not come to fruition, there is always a trip to the self-help section of the local bookstore, or With the advances in technology and the algorithms used to power nearly every website and retailer "out there" it is likely that the reader will receive multiple emails or correspondence urging them to join AA, quit smoking, or become a die-hard Indianapolis Colts fan.

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